Tuesday November 21st 2017

“Shakespeare in Love”

Highly Recommended ***** I am often asked by my readers (both of this site and the ethnic newspapers that translate and publish my reviews), “How difficult is it to write the review?”. My answer is pretty simple. I enjoy going over the play just seen, as I recall the positives and negatives of the production. In many cases, after an enjoyable solid production, writing the review and reliving the experience is as “good as it gets”. It is like seeing the play twice on the same day. In the case of today’s production, “Shakespeare in Love” now on the stage at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier, directed to perfection by Rachel Rockwell, it is a delight to write the review. Ms Rockwell has taken this adaptation of the film to a new ground and made a solid film even better on stage, “live” on the perfect stage (adapted by Lee Hall, for the stage).

The story is that of a young Will Shakespeare, a playwright (Nick Rehberger) who is hard at work trying to catch up on his works. He is working on a comedy called “Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter”.  One must understand that in this time period, only male actors were allowed on the stage. This is important to note, as we find a female admirer of his works, Viola De Lesseps ( the lovely Kate McGonigle) who desires to be an actress/actor, pretends to be a male actor and is cast in the role of Romeo. Will, who is struggling with his storylines and characters, gets assistance from Kit Marlowe (deftly handled by Michael Perez), another writer who is both rival and friend.

During the course of the rehearsal, Will finds himself falling in love with a woman who as it turns out is the leading man in his play, who as it turns out is the woman who adores him. Confused? Well, you should be and that is the beauty of this inventive and very touching comedy based on the screenplay of Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman, with the touches of the actual work of the “Bard, himself”. Mentions of many of his characters and plays along with lots of mistaken identities (used in almost every Shakespeare comedy) are all here and Rockwell, who is a genius, has put together a cast that makes every character an important cog in the wheel.  Names like Larry Yando, Ron E. Rains, Dennis Grimes, Luigi Sottile, Andrew Mueller, Timothy D. Stickney ,Linda Reiter (a fabulous Queen Elizabeth) young Jake Helm , Nathaniel Braga ( an adorable young maiden) and Catherine Smitko plus a host of others make this a sharp satire.

Viola truly falls in love with Will (very evident by the action on stage), but is betrothed and does wed her betrothed. Another part of the story is about a form of actors that most Americans never heard of-“sharers”. These could invest in a production for a share of the proceeds. Hey, wait a second. In some of our “storefronts” here in the city, we have companies that pay the actors a share of the net proceeds of each performance, so it looks as if this unknown type of theater is in fact still alive and well and living in Chicago! This is a fun experience and for those who have seen the film version, I think you will find that the live production/adaptation is far more fun.

On the tech side, the set by Scott Davis is very modern and electronically worked. There was a slight problem with one of the elevator-type scene changes where the floor stopped operating on the way up. Three little jags and it became close enough for the actors to get off the floor so it could be adjusted for the next scene. The “hitch” was certainly noticed by the full-house audience, but did not stop the flow of action at all. The beauty of live theater and the well- trained actors who appear on the stages we have, is that they are professionals and know how to keep the flow of the show going while also keeping every performer safe from harm. That is why I love theater. The lighting (Robert Wierzel), sound (Ray Nardelli) ,original music (Neil Bartram) costumes (Susan E. Mickey and wigs/make-up (Richard Jarvie) all worked to make this production as close to flawless as possible. I also want to extend a special kudos to the amazing Dash who plays “spot” ( a dog- he is adorable and very talented.

I think my favorite character in the production is Henslowe ( played with just the right comical touch by Larry Yando) who has many references to how no matter the negative, the play always works out and gets done on time and right. “It is a mystery!” If you have ever done theater-work, you know just how true this line is!

“Shakespeare in Love” will continue at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier  thru June 11th with performances as follows:

Tuesdays  7:30 p.m.

Wednesdays  1 and 7:30 p.m.

Thursdays  7:30 p.m

Fridays  7:30 p.m.

Saturdays  3 and 8 p.m.

Sundays  2 p.m.

Tickets range from $58-$88 and are available at the theater, by calling 312-595-5600 or online at www.chicagoshakes.com

Patrons under 35 can get special discount tickets at $20

Access Shakespeare performances are:

May 7th audio -described (touch -tour available at noon)

May 11th at 1 p.m. and May 11th at 7:30 p.m. Open-captioned

May 19th ASL Duo-Interpreted

Discounted parking is available at the Navy Pier Parking Garage (bring card to theater for redemption )

Running Time 2 hours and 20 minutes with an intermission

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Shakespeare in Love:

 

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