Friday, April 28, 2017

Review of Shakespeare in Love at Chicago Shakespeare

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Shakespeare in Love. It was based on the screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard and adapted for the stage by Lee Hall. It was directed by Rachel Rockwell. It was about William Shakespeare (Nick Rehberger) writing a play that eventually would be known as Romeo and Juliet, not Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate King's Daughter as he first intended. As he is casting the play he meets a young noblewoman, Viola (Kate McGonigle), who is forbidden from being an actor in the theater because (number one) she is a woman and (number two) she is a noblewoman. She cross-dresses as a man and ends up being cast as Romeo. When Will goes to her house to deliver the message to Thomas Kent, her alter-ego, that he has gotten the part, he meets Viola and falls in love with her. Hence the name of the play! It is about romantic love, of course, but also about the love of theatre and finding your inspiration. I thought this was a great show. It was super funny as well as heartbreaking and inspirational. It made me want to go home and write; so I did!

I think it is so cool how they had a scene that inspired Will to write the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet between Viola and Will. I think that was perfect for those two characters because they are basically like Romeo and Juliet except they don't both die at the end. Whenever she would say "speak more to me," he would try to and then mouth "oh, no" because he didn't want to speak any more poetry to her because he wasn't the one composing the poetry: Christopher Marlowe (Michael Perez) was. They did this Cyrano-inspired scene where Kit Marlowe and Shakespeare were at her chamber window speaking poetry to her, but she doesn't know that Kit is there, but he is actually the genius behind all this beautiful poetry she is hearing. But Shakespeare actually becomes a good writer thanks to Kit's help and Viola's inspiration. I thought that was very interesting and funny because now some people are theorizing that Marlowe wrote some of Shakespeare's work. I don't really think the play believes that is true, but they like to tease you about it. It is also clear that Shakespeare was very influenced by Marlowe's plays in real life, and their relationship in the play acknowledges that.

Many of the actors in this show get to play actors. Wabash (Scott Danielson) had a stutter and he got over it on stage. I thought the scene where he did get over his stutter, no matter for how short a time, was inspirational and adorable. Ralph (Ron King) was super funny. He was originally supposed to play Romeo but then Viola as Thomas Kent steps in and steals the role. His response is to be confused and annoyed but then eventually to embrace the role of Nurse, in which he is hilarious. Burbage (Timothy D. Stickney) and Ned Alleyn (Luigi Sottile) are certainly not as adaptable as Ralph was, given that they only will take a role if the character's name is in the title. I thought that was hilarious. They were archetypes of famous actors, which I thought was very funny. I also thought that Fennyman (Ron E. Rains) starts out kind of the villain who is interested in theater only for the money. But as the play goes on he becomes more of a lovable character because of his being so excited about getting to play the Apothecary in Romeo and Juliet. The real villains are the people who don't like theater or women or anything that is good in this world: Wessex (Dennis Grimes) and Tilney (Jerre Dye). Tilney seems to want to oppress theater more than preserve it, even though that is his job. And he seemed to be the inspiration for Malvolio with his yellow stockings. Wessex was just altogether a terrible human. He bought women, he was a jerk to them, he hated the theater, and he had red hair which was a sign of the devil in that time! (Maybe someone told that to him as a child and he felt he had to live up to it.) Dennis did a really good job making me hate his character!

Women in this time period were not allowed to do a lot, but I thought it was cool how, in this version of the character, Queen Elizabeth was a feminist. The very beautiful costumes (by Susan E. Mickey) she wore seemed very restricting which seemed to represent what it was like to be a woman in that era, even the queen. I did wonder why, if she was such a feminist, she didn't say women could act in the theater permanently, since she was queen and could make the rules. But I guess it shows that even the queen didn't have all the power in the world. I also noticed that Viola was kind of like Superman because her alter-ego was Thomas Kent, like Clark Kent! And she is like a superhero because she has two identities and she is fighting for truth in acting. But in the end her kryptonite is her father and his upholding of the patriarchy.

People who would like this show are people who like excited apothecaries, feminist queens, and more realistic balcony scenes. I think this is a great show. It had great actors and a great story. I loved it!

Photos: Liz Lauren

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