Shakespeare/Will (Charlie Gallant) is having trouble getting his thoughts onto paper. In the opening scene, supportive onlookers surround Will as he struggles to write the next line of his play, Romeo And Ethel The Pirate’s Daughter. “Shall I compare …” he writes then stops, having drawn a blank. His rival and good friend Kit Marlowe (Austin Eckert) encourages Will offering him “…thee to…” and later “… a summer’s day.” In an hilarious contradiction of alliances with rivals they form some of the most memorable lines of the play, generating the first drops of fuel to Shakespeare’s creative tank.
On the other side of town another theatre company, headed by Burbage (Andrew McNee), has stolen one of Will’s earlier plays and casts a dog, which catches the attention of Queen Elizabeth I. The exquisite Jennifer Lines arrives on stage as HRH and is given raucous applause when she turns to us in her full splendor. Cory Sincenne pulls double duty as both costume designer and set designer and wows the audience with her magnificent creations.
There is a dog. The dog is cute. Dogs are lovely. Enough about the dog.
Back at a luxurious estate the lovely Viola de Lesseps (Ghazal Azarbad) longs to be an actor on the stage, a privilege allowed only to the men. She disguises herself as Thomas Kent and auditions for Will’s latest play, still a work in progress. Azarbad is fabulous as the restless de Lesseps but doesn’t quite hit the mark when she transitions to Thomas Kent. She doesn’t stay there long so we hardly notice and the auditions are some of the funniest bits in the play.
As the story unfolds and Will taps into his muse we find him love-struck and tongue-tied with rival Kit beneath Viola’s window/veranda. Here Kit assists Will once again writing and subsequently wooing the lady of his dreams. The physical antics the two men provide during this scene are hilarious icing to an already fabulous piece of work.
It’s worthwhile to take a minute to talk about the transitions in the play. There are three major story lines with overlapping information: a lot of information that could, in the wrong hands, easily interfere with the flow of the play. In this instance however, instead of ending a scene and swapping out the set for the next bit of action, the dialogue continues unhindered and transitions into the next location as if transported in time. Brilliant idea because quite frankly, we’re having so much fun we don’t want to be pulled out of this for even a flash second.
Back at the theatre for rehearsals we find Will perfecting the art of the kiss. Bard newcomer Jason Sakaki steals this scene with one carefully timed physical gesture that has the audience in hysterics.
Anton Lipovetsky plays the no-nonsense Frees, the lord of Wessex, who conspires to wed Viola and her money in exchange for his title. It is a decidedly humourless role but Lipovetsky pulls small gems out of his hat like few can do. Bard has a couple of comedic jewels in its hat with Sakaki and Lipovetsky.
In the second half of the play the cast is clearly enjoying the opportunity to deliberately overact and when Will finally goes up against Frees in a sword fight, the results are bust-a-gut magnificent.
Take the family, treat a friend. You’ll be glad you came.
For a link to tickets click HERE.