Front & Center - Theater Reviews

Front + Center: 9.11.19

shakespeare in love
the grandel theatre » through 9/15

Many stage productions try to modernize Shakespeare’s ideas and characters with new-age costumes and multimedia effects, but I think his tales are timeless enough that they still translate well with traditional clothing, music and scenery. Insight Theatre’s current production of Shakespeare in Love, directed by Suki Peters and based on the film by the same name, does an admirable job of incorporating the theme of Romeo & Juliet into a humorous but moving stage production. And because the costumes, music and props are period-appropriate, you get an idea of what life (and love) might actually have been like for the 16th-century playwright.

The story opens in London, where Shakespeare is struggling to find his muse. When he meets the beautiful Viola de Lesseps at a party, inspiration returns—much like when Romeo spies Juliet for the first time across a crowded room. There are serious obstacles to their love, however; Shakespeare is married, and Viola is about to be. Her father has promised her to the obnoxious, overbearing Lord Wessex, who plans to spirit her away to Virginia as soon as the wedding is over.

The dutiful daughter agrees to the match, but first she steals a few trysts with the playwright who has captured her heart. Englishwomen of the time were not allowed to perform on stage, so Viola’s devoted nurse (Michelle Hand) helps her dress as a young man to join the cast of Romeo & Juliet. The experience fulfills Viola’s lifelong dream of acting and allows her to spend some final moments with her secret love.

Aaron Dodd and Gwendolyn Wotawa fill the story’s main roles with a good deal of passion and humor, and audiences will recognize Nine Network’s Ruth Ezell as Mistress Quickly and a chorus member. The most striking thing about the overall narrative is how skillfully it weaves the story line of Romeo & Juliet into Will and Viola’s own relationship.

Some scene changes are accomplished by the cast wheeling a large, curtained doorway around the stage. The effect is a bit choppy and distracting, but otherwise, the story moves at a fresh pace that the audience can follow. The film version of Shakespeare in Love is one of my all-time favorites, and it was fun to experience a theatrical take on this clever story.

upcoming shows »
Oct. 1-13 | Hello, Dolly! at The Fabulous Fox Theatre
A new production of the classic musical

Oct. 10-26 | The Who’s Tommy at Stray Dog Theatre
A stirring tale of the human spirit, based on the iconic 1969 rock album

Oct. 10-27 | Brighton Beach Memoirs at New Jewish Theatre
The award-winning story of a struggling Jewish household

Photo: John Lamb

Recommended