Will’s Charismatic Crew Leaps from Screen to Stage
by Barry David Horwitz
Marin Theatre Company has crafted a whirligig of theater, holding our attention with a kaleidoscope of color, song, and favorite lines from Shakespeare—as the poet struggles to write them. In “Shakespeare in Love,” Scenic Designer Kat Conley has lovingly created the metal scaffolding, wooden props, a piano, some drums, and a mandolin to evoke backstage at an Elizabethan theater. Forget the movie, this is theater the way Will knew it in his time—raw, competitive, and scandalous.
But the wonderful actors go beyond the predictable script. They create brilliant illusions based on historical characters. I would like to enjoy more of their raucous stories, as they swirl by in Director Jasson Minidakis’ ingenious, brisk production.
Young Will Shakespeare (imposing Adam Magill) is searching for words, lines, and love at the Rose Theater in London. At the same time, an impetuous, beautiful, and rich groupie, Viola de Lesseps (zealous Megan Trout), adores his poetry and his plays. Since women are banned from the stage by law, Viola tries to break into acting by dressing as a boy, to grab a female role. After all, actors are marginal folk in 1593, like gypsies, criminals, sex workers, and dope dealers.
The breathless Will is surrounded by a dream team of historical Bros. Most of the actors embody real Elizabethan people. Will’s good buddy Kit Marlowe (letter-perfect Kenny Toll) makes a grand entrance, full of poetry and great ideas. Marlowe, the better-known playwright, is a joy to watch as he seduces guys and gals. Toll, full of power and passion, doubles as Ned Alleyn, a beloved, braggart actor who hopes to rescue the debt-ridden theater.
In fact, most of actors do double and triple duty, as well as play an instrument or two—a great display of the Bay’s top talents. The constellation of local stars makes for a thrilling show.
As Queen Elizabeth I, Stacy Ross, in a silver flared gown, regally descends the moveable metal staircase. Ross rules her randy subjects with a glance or a flick of her fingers. L.Peter Callender tears up the stage with his bombastic, powerful rendition of Burbage, Shakespeare’s master actor. When Callender comes down the aisles ranting about his lost script of “Romeo,” everyone cowers in fear, deliciously.
Thomas Gorrebeeck plays Lord Wessex, an alluring villain who blindly pursues money and an arranged marriage to Viola. Gorrebeeck swaggers and struts, handsome and haughty in his role of seducer and selfish snake.
Not only Viola, but Sam and Webster also cross-dress in their roles. Since women are not allowed to act, young Sam (charming, artful Ben Euphrat) becomes a hilarious Juliet. Sango Tajima impishly explodes as a young John Webster, the future playwright of horrors.
The heat of the play comes from the actors’ marvelous creations, including Lance Gardner, Brian Herndon, Liam Vincent, and Mark Anderson Phillips. And don’t forget Robert Sicular as Henslowe, who is trying to run a theater and make a buck. Any of their fascinating characters could make a whole show.
In Act Two, we are slowly seduced into the budding romance between Will and Viola, as the chemistry between them flickers like a delicate flame. The “star-crossed” lovers embody a burning question about “Love” that ends as a dramatic bet between opposing camps. Finally, they move us deeply as they face a decision as dire as Juliet’s in the tomb scene.
What a great way to introduce folks to Shakespeare. It’s always fun to go behind the scenes of “Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter” to see how theater is made. As their new offering threatens to unravel, theater manager Henslowe, keeps hoping the quill won’t break, repeating the sacred mantra of theater: “It’s a mystery.” Minadakis, cast, and crew are keeping the mystery alive and amazing, in Marin.
“Shakespeare in Love”: screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard, adapted by Lee Hall, directed by Jasson Minadakis, at Marin Theatre Company, Mill Valley, California, through Sunday, December 17, 2017. Info: marintheatre.org
Cast: L. Peter Callender, Ben Euphrat, Lance Gardner, Thomas Gorrebeeck, Brian Herndon, Adam Magill, Mark Anderson Phillips, Stacy Ross, Robert Sicular, Sango Tajima, Kenny Toll, Megan Trout, Liam Vincent, and Molly the Dog.