Thursday September 21st 2017

“Her Majesty’s Will” reviewed by Carol Moore

“Her Majesty’s Will” is a campy, irreverent romp which hazards a guess as to what Shakespeare did with his ‘lost years’. David Blixt says that he wrote “Her Majesty’s Will (Will & Kit Adventures Book 1)” in part as an homage to Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in those “Road” movies. In his adaptation of “Her Majesty’s Will” for the Lifeline stage, Robert Kauzlaric wisely incorporates that silly, tongue-in-cheek, just-buddies charm. 3 ½ Spotlights

Practically nothing is known of Shakespeare’s childhood, except the date he was baptized (April 26, 1564). On November 28, 1582, 18-year-old Shakespeare married 26-year-old Anne Hathaway. Their first daughter, Susanna, was born six months later on May 26 1583. Their twins, Hamnet and Judith, were baptized on February 2, 1585. In 1592, he was already established in London.

David Brext, who says he’s drawn to gaps in stories, decided to fill in the blanks – Shakespeare’s ‘lost years’ with a spy novel/adventure story. Somehow, our Will (Javier Ferreira) ran afoul of the law, as administered by Sir Thomas Lucy (Dan Cobbler). Leaving his wife and kids in Stratford, he went on the run.

Calling himself Will Falstaff, he got work as a schoolmaster. One day, flourishing his sword, he rescued a beautiful woman who was being hassled by a couple of thugs. When he turned around, the woman was gone, replaced by a slender young man who’d appropriated Will’s best shirt. Christopher Marlowe, who preferred to be called Kit (Bryan Bosque), who works as a spy, has uncovered a plot which endangers the queen.

By the way, you’ll hear, “Her Majesty Elizabeth, long may she reign”, followed by a slight bow, repeated multiple times during the story.

As Will follows Kit across the length and breadth of England, there are plenty of opportunities for bawdy humor, Shakespearean jokes, pub fights (swords vs. tankards, anyone?) and political intrigue. Will demonstrates his loyalty and talent. In the end, as a reward/and a punishment (remember Sir Lucy, who wants to clap in jail), he’s assigned to Burbage’s theater in London.

The rest of the cast all play multiple parts. As the Chorus, Heather Chrisler sets the scenes. She also plays Lady Helena, a lady-in-waiting to the Queen. As Emily Ball, sister to Cutting Ball (Mike Ooi), she holds her own among the pub set, which also includes Robert Greene (Peter Greenberg), John Savage (LaQuin Groves) and John Lyly (Martel Manning. Don Bender plays Sir Francis Walsingham, nominally Kit’s superior.

Some interesting factoids which make “Her Majesty’s Will” truly unique:

• David Brext dedicated his book to all the “… Patches, Fooles & Rude Mechanicals. In Short, the Shakespearean Actor”.
• This marks the first time a playwright has previously been an actor on Lifeline’s stage (Malachai Constant in 2005’s “Sirens of Titan”).
• I’m pretty sure this is first time a playwright has been the Fight Director for his own play on any stage – Shakespeare might have been the exception.
• Playwright David Blixt lives just a few block away from Lifeline in Chicago’s Rogers Park.

Lifeline Theatre, a small (99 seats) venue in Rogers Park, is one of my favorite places. If you’ve never been there, you’re missing something really special. They’re unique because every play they do – for adults and for children – is their own literary adaptation.

Over the years, I’ve seen adaptations of many of my favorite books at Lifeline. Historical swashbucklers: “The Three Musketeers” and “The Count of Monte Cristo”; Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities”; Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre”; Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights”; Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” and “Northanger Abbey”.

They’ve also done adaptations of Dorothy L. Sayres’ Lord Peter Whimsey mysteries, and a brilliant twist on the Sherlock Holmes legend, “Miss Holmes”. Recently, they’ve adapted Amy Timberlake’s young adult historical, “One Came Home”; and “Monstrous Regiment”, set in Terry Pratchett’s Disc World; Austin Grossman’s comic-book style, “Soon I Will Be Invincible”. I’m soooo excited! I just found out that my favorite, “Neverwhere”, Neil Gaiman’s fantasy set in London Below, will be reprised in May 25th.

“Her Majesty’s Will” runs through July 16th at Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood Ave., Chicago.

Running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes, with an intermission.

Performances are:

Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 pm

Saturdays at 4:00 and 8:00 pm

Sundays at 4:00 pm.

Tickets range from $30-$40. Free parking with shuttle service to the theater is available in Lifeline’s remote lot at the northeast corner of Morse and Ravenswood. FYI (773) 761-4477 or www.lifelinetheatre.com.

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Her Majesty’s Will”.

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