Willis, who has returned to Crockett, Texas, after a stage and film career in California and New York, also plays a duke in the companion piece at this year’s festival: The Two Gentlemen of Verona, one of the earliest works (if not the earliest) by the English playwright. Brandon Fox, who is directing the “comic drama,” said he found something to like about this play, considered by many critics to be a starter course for Shakespeare, who would employ similar though more developed strategies (including thwarted love, disguises and females posing as males) in later plays. “This isn’t King Lear or focused on older people. This is a young play by a young playwright about young people,” Fox notes. “It’s about four people trying to figure out who they are. They’re very book-smart but not necessarily life-smart. They make choices that we might roll our eyes at or cover our faces. We have all been guilty of making those choices when we were in high school or college.” The play has been reset in the 1930s complete with jazz music of the era, and there’s even a live dog onstage, which Fox promises “will be fun for the audience.”
Two Gentlemen of Verona is at 8:30 p.m. August 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9. Henry IV, Part 1 is at 8:30 p.m. August 2, 6, 8 and 10. Miller Outdoor Theatre, 6000 Hermann Park Drive. For information, call 281‑373‑3386 or visit milleroutdoortheatre.com. Free.
Aug. 1-3, 8:30 p.m.; Aug. 5-10, 8:30 p.m., 2014