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Romeo and Ethel, The Pirate’s Daughter: A Review of Shakespeare in Love, the Play

While I normally try to stick to book reviews, I thought I’d try my hand at reviewing a play. After all, it’s main focus is Shakespeare’s attempt to write a play.

I want to start by saying this adaptation of Shakespeare in Love was fantastic. I only had one complaint about the play and it was a very minor one. The acting was great, the music was well done, and the set and costume design really took you back to London in 1593.

I thought the two leads were perfect. Luke Humphrey and Shannon Taylor really nailed William Shakespeare and Viola de Lesseps, respectively. Andrew Robinson really nailed Wabash. After taking a course in Stuttering during my undergrad, it was nice to see the actor not just throw on a stutter, but also play the character with facial ticks and tremors while stuttering. Tal Schulman was great as John Webster, playing the role with a comedic creepiness that could’ve easily been overdone but here, was just right.The whole cast really looked like they were having fun. While I’ve picked out some of my particular favourites here, they all did a wonderful job.

Another very important shoutout the Trevor Patt and George Meanwell who were wonderfully talented and played a multitude of instruments. I especially enjoyed the Hurdy-gurdy, the melodeon, and the recorders. The other musicians were great too and I wish I knew their names to give them some proper recognition.

There were plenty of references to Shakespeare’s plays, probably the same ones from the movie, but it’s been so long since I’ve seen it, so I can’t be sure.  Some were clever, such as saying “Out, damned Spot” when yelling at Spot, the dog (perfectly played by Cole, the dog), some were situational, like Shakespeare and Marlow not having an invite to the ball and having to sneak in, and some references were just throwaway lines like Christopher Marlow telling Will that Ethel will marry a black moor and get strangled with a handkerchief.

As a comedy, the play really surpasses expectations. The comedic elements were turned up for the play, which means you can skip the gym because you’ll find your ab workout here. Some repetition worked, such as “I don’t know, it’s a mystery” where others kind of got annoying, like the Nurse repeating “My lady!” in a high pitched voice. Still, it was funny for most of the play.

My one complaint has to do with props. Actually one prop in particular. Since the entire play took place in front of one set and everything else was done with props, I thought that a bit more care could’ve been put into the rowboat/gondolla that Will and Viola sit in. It was just a few seats and a bench. It didn’t need to be anything too fancy but even having the side of a boat facing the audience would’ve helped. This was the only point of the play where I felt disconnected.

Still, the play was highly entertaining and well-performed, -written, -directed, and -produced. The carpentry, costumes, and wigs were elaborate and fitting for the setting.

4.5/5 Stars

I plan to see The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, Matilda, and Anne of Green Gables this year too. I’ll likely post reviews of those when that happens.

 

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