Shakespeare's wittiest and most quarrelsome lovers, Beatrice and Benedick, spark the action and, surprisingly, the emotions in Much Ado About Nothing , which also features a more conventional pair of sweethearts in the romantic Hero and Claudio. James MacDonald directs CanStage 's latest Dream in High Park , featuring Juan Chioran and Tara Rosling as the battling Bs, with Aviva Hoffman , Brett Christopher , Xuan Fraser , Kerry Ann Doherty and Jim Warren . Previews begin June 28, opens July 3 and runs to September 4 in the outdoor amphitheatre at High Park.
Turning 15 this year, SummerWorks has proven that it's a potent breeding ground for original theatre. Under new artistic producers Keira Loughran and Kimahli Powell , the juried fest offers 42 pieces by established and new writers, among them Sonja Mills , Hannah Moscovitch , Norman Yeung , Byron Abalos and Mike McPhaden . Begins August 4 and runs to August 14. Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst) and Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson). 416-410-1048.
Merchant of Withrow
The Merchant Of Venice is a troubling play for today's audiences because of the character of the Jewish moneylender Shylock. Shakespeare in the Rough tackles the play's comic and serious sides and offers this summer's most fascinating piece of cross-gender and cross-cultural casting: native actor Jani Lauzon as Shylock. Helmed by artistic director Sanjay Talwar , the cast also includes Richard Alan Campbell , Carly Street , Richard Harte , Pip Dwyer and Jennifer Villaverde . Opens July 23 and runs to September 5 in Withrow Park . 647-438-6742.
Sensuality and savagery burn through the works of American playwright Sam Shepard . Soulpepper lassoes one of his most riveting works, the cowboy-themed and passionate Fool For Love , with Ted Dykstra directing Kevin Bundy , Megan Follows - no Anne of Green Gables here - and Stuart Hughes . Previews from August 4, opens August 10 and runs to October 1 at Harbourfront Centre Theatre (231 Queens Quay West). 416-973-4000.
Wives make merry
Had enough of Shakespeare in the parks? Try DareDen Theatre 's contribution to the summer Bard shows, The Merry Wives Of Windsor , presented in the downtown courtyard of St. Andrews United Church and attempting to capture the flavour of London's open-air Globe Theatre. Dennis O'Connor plays the self-impressed Falstaff, with Allegra Fulton , Catherine McNally , Elley-Ray Snow , Rick Waugh and Eli Ham ; Jeannette Lambermont directs. Previews July 14, opens July 15 and runs to August 14. 117 Bloor East. 416-504-7529.
The largest theatre event of the year keeps growing. This year's Fringe Festival boasts an amazing 134 shows chosen by lottery, with some returning and some first-time Fringe artists. The roll call includes T.J. Dawe , Nicola Gunn , Brock Simpson , Kate Lynch , Judith Thompson , Chris Abraham , Eli Batalion and Jerome Sable . Opens July 6 and runs to July 17 at eight venues and other bring-your-own sites. 416-966-1062.
Shrew on the bay
ShakespeareWorks returns for its second season and jumps right into the middle of the battle of the sexes with The Taming Of The Shrew , directed by David Ferry with an eye to the play's comedy as well as its issues. His Kate and Petruchio are Elizabeth Saunders and Paulino Nunes , with Marian Day and Paul Braunstein also in the cast. Previews begin June 26, opens June 29 and runs to August 7. Ashbridges Bay . 416-872-1111.
Toronto audiences have a thing for Cirque du Soleil , so it's no surprise that the company's returning to Toronto with its latest touring show, Corteo , created and directed by Daniele Finzi Pasca . Filled with clowns, acrobats and amazing aerial work, Corteo begins August 4 and runs to September 11 at the troupe's trademark blue-and-yellow tent at Ontario Place . 1-800-678-5440.