Theatre: All the words on stage

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Indy Lifestyle Online
"Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediment". Award yourself five points if you identified that as Sonnet 116. All sorts of people have been fascinated by Shakespeare's sonnet sequence. Oxbridge staircases have thrilled to the insistent buzz of quill on paper or typewriter key on roller as successive generations of academics have renumbered the poems "correctly". Crusty dyed-in-the-wool old homophobes have looked at those addressed to a man and declared them to be bound up in literary convention and really addressed to a woman. Others have cited them as "evidence" of the poet's gay orientation, a description which is at best vague and at worst, downright misleading.

Whether Tony Kushner (right) is "a gay playwright" or "a playwright who is gay" is open to debate, but no-one watching Angels in America will have had the slightest doubt as to the centrality of his sexuality to his writing. (Like John Updike or Philip Roth but no-one talks about heterosexuality influencing their prose.) There hasn't been much Kushner in this country of late (aside from the exhilarating Manchester Royal Exchange production of his adaptation of Corneille's The Illusion), so there's sure to be excitement at his short play inspired by Sonnet 75.

It comes as part of a package entitled Love's Fire, in which The Acting Company present seven plays in an evening by American playwrights based on the sonnets: Kushner is not the only big name. Eric Bogosian, whose Bitter Sauce (from No 118) is a fragile farce about an insecure couple on their wedding night, is famous for Talk Radio. William Finn, who shot to fame with March of the Falsettos (much bigger in the US than in its awkwardly presented British premiere) has come up with a song, "Painting You", from No 102.

Marsha Norman, who wrote Night Mother, has come up with the tersely titled 140, a chain of love between a succession of people. Ntozake Shange, author of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf, wrote a music/ dance piece based on No 128 and Wendy Wasserstein has the most substantial work, a half-hour play drawing on No 94 and set in the Hamptons, entitled Waiting for Philip Glass.

Finally there's John Guare, most famous for Six Degrees of Separation. Those with elephantine memories will remind you that he's no stranger to Shakespeare, having written the lyrics of the rock musical Two Gentlemen of Verona with Galt "Hair" McDermott. Not a smash here, it managed 627 performances on Broadway.

`Love's Fire' is at The Pit, The Barbican, EC1 (0171-638 8891) from Wed