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Shakespeare in Love

a Comedy
CATEGORY : COMEDY
by Lee Hall, based on work by Marc Norman & Tom Stoppard

COMPANY : Alliance Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Conant Performing Arts Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 5124

SHOWING : August 30, 2017 - September 24, 2017

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Described as “an absolute joy from beginning to end” (Daily Express), "Shakespeare in Love" is a new play based on the 1998 film that won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture. Young Will Shakespeare has writer’s block... the deadline for his new play is fast approaching but he’s in desperate need of inspiration. That is, until he finds his muse – Viola. This beautiful young woman is Will’s greatest admirer and will stop at nothing (including breaking the law) to appear in his next play.  Against a bustling background of mistaken identity, ruthless scheming, and backstage theatrics, Will’s love for Viola quickly blossoms and inspires him to write his greatest masterpiece. Georgia Shakespeare Artistic Director Richard Garner directs this love letter to William Shakespeare in his company’s former home at Oglethorpe University.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Richard Garner
Wabash/Frees/Musician/Ensemble Jeremy Aggers
Tilney/Ensemble Chase Steven Anderson
Musician Scott E. DePoy
Peter/Ensemble Barrett Doyle
Sir Robert/Boatman/Ralph/Ensemble Allan Edwards
Henslowe/Ensemble Richard Garner
Marlowe/Ensemble Neal A Ghant
Kate/Queen’s Attendant/Ensemble Devon Hales
Burbage/Ensemble Brian Hatch
Fennyman/Ensemble Chris Kayser
Nurse/Ensemble Tess Malis Kincaid
Viola Bethany Anne Lind
Sam/Ensemble Stephen Ruffin
Ned Alleyn/Lambert/Catling/Musician Travis Smith
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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The Movie Onstage
by playgoer
Monday, September 11, 2017
4.0
The plot of "Shakespeare in Love" is largely cribbed from Shakespeare’s "Romeo and Juliet," with a little "Cyrano de Bergerac" thrown in, and adding a bit of "Twelfth Night" from time to time. The premise is that young Will Shakespeare, with the help of Christopher Marlowe, devises the plot of "Romeo and Juliet" from happenings in his own life. Already married to Anne Hathaway, Will is smitten by the betrothed Viola, who disguises herself as a man to appear onstage. It ends with more of a bittersweet note than the tragic note "Romeo and Juliet" ends on.

The Alliance Theatre has pretty much handed the reins on this one to the defunct Georgia Shakespeare Festival, using its director (Richard Garner) and a number of its regular troupe, and performing in their old space at Oglethorpe University. If they hadn’t farmed out their wardrobe holdings upon disbanding, I imagine some of the costumes might have a familiar ring to them too. As it is, Angela Balogh Calin’s costumes are a visual delight of Elizabethan apparel. Ken Yunker’s lighting design adds to the visual appeal, although some of the murkier moments tend to throw unanticipated shadows.

Ms. Calin’s set design is no match for her costumes. There’s an enormous wooden wall backing the set, with a couple of huge shadow-box-looking structures in front. The upper level functions for some balcony scenes, but the decorations on it are cluttered and unappealing. A couple of other structures move on and off to stand in for a curtained bed and various other locations. The most effective scenic element is brown fabric stretched around a couple of benches to resemble a rowboat, with blue fabric rippling alongside. It’s a well-worn and always welcome Georgia Shakespeare touch. A modern metal stepladder on wheels is a jarringly unwelcome touch, although its movement blends seamlessly into the action.

Clay Benning’s sound design is fine, but the music we hear is live (under Brandon Bush’s music direction). There’s a bit too much of it, but the sound is splendid and thoroughly Elizabethan in effect, as is McCree O’Kelly’s choreography that accompanies much of the music. Scot J. Mann’s fight choreography adds exciting movement to fight sequences. It’s all thoroughly professional in tone.

The play’s the thing here, and all but two actors essay multiple roles. Most have one standout individual role, but blend into other scenes as needed. Allan Edwards and Devon Hales impress in multiple roles, but they too blend in when their character is not a focal point. Director Richard Garner has experience in corralling large Shakespearean casts, and his touch is seen throughout. There are too many sweet character touches to count, with the old Georgia Shakespeare regulars making the most of their time onstage. Tinashe Kajese-Bolden fits in splendidly as Queen Elizabeth, and Richard Garner himself has a heyday onstage as Henslowe. There’s hardly enough praise to go around in terms of acting and direction.

The major roles of Viola and Will are played by Bethany Anne Lind, the Laura of Georgia Shakespeare’s splendid "Glass Menagerie," and Thomas Azar, a face unfamiliar to Atlanta audiences. Both acquit themselves well, managing to provide the romantic heart of the story while also being delightful in cross-dressing moments. But this is an ensemble show, and they don’t eclipse the firmament of Atlanta stars with whom they share a stage. This isn’t a movie, and peripheral action is as much a part of the production as the actors speaking lines.

"Shakespeare in Love" is part of the (relatively) recent trend of turning popular movies into sellable theatre pieces. In this case, it hasn’t been turned into a musical, although music and dance are a part of the show. There’s a lot to like, but the whole thing is so reminiscent of the movie that it’s hard to love. What’s easy to love is seeing the Georgia Shakespeare Festival ensemble onstage again in an unexpected last hurrah. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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