Saturday February 24th 2018

“The Book of Will”

Another Midwest premiere at Northlight! This one will have special meaning for the Shakespeare lovers out there. The title is “The Book of Will” written by Lauren Gunderson and it is a marvelous story relating the story of the men (and a few women) who made certain that the plays that he write were published and saved for posterity. The premise is that had it not been for these loyal friends, Shakespeare’s works may have been lost to history. Gunderson has us meet the members of Shakespeare’s own company as they plot and plan the [production of the First Folio in 1623.

While they have no money nor do they have the rights to publish any of his works, they are strong believers in his work and the right of the future generations to be able to see there plays, and so they connive and use their charm, wits and friendships to find a way to get this Folio printed and be there for the future. After all, these are the plays that they did and that shaped their lives. Since they have this love, why not pass it on to the future. Two of the actors, Henry Condell ( a brilliant performance by Gregory Linington) and John Hemmings (deftly handled by Jim Ortlieb) set out not only to get these works published but to uphold the legacy of William Shakespeare for all the world to honor, forever!

Smoothly directed by Jessica Thebus on a set designed by  Richard and Jacqueline Penrod, this two act (two-hours-fifteen minutes with a 15 minute intermission) moves quickly. The first ten minutes, also knows as the “exposition” seems slower than the rest, but it is important to make certain that the audience truly understands the direction that these men are planning to take. That being said, Thebus gets it done and allows the audience to feel that they are on track with the production and story.

The cast is amazing! In addition to the sterling (and powerful ) performances of the aforementioned Linington and Ortlieb, we have Dana Black in the dual roles of  Alice Heminges and also Susannah Shakespeare. Her Alice character is adorable as she works with her father and his friend to get the book published. During this period, she has a love interest, Isaac Jaggard ( Luigi Sottile) ,who does publish the book, and the playful courting between the two is precious. In this “bit” they prove that good acting needs very little dialogue! Needless to say, the book is published ! Isaac’s father is portrayed by Austin Tichenor who also plays another actor, one Richard Burbage, who only makes it through the first scene (but handsomely).

Other actors in the ensemble, many who take on many roles are Sam Hubbard, Rengin Altay (who plays Rebecca Heminges and Anne Hathaway), Thomas J. Cox (in a beautiful portrayal of Ralph Crane), the always reliable McKinley Carter, and another Chicago favorite, known for his work at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, William Dick as Shakespeare’s arch-enemy, Ben Johnson. He is terrific!

The technical aspects of the show are perfection to watch. Janice Pytel’s costumes are very fitting, Paul Toben’s lighting, illuminating and the music (original) and sound by Rick Sims, lyrical. Since the play is about a writer and his words, I felt the need to play with some words and opted to do so in describing other than the story or the actors. The play is not just a lesson in history (as it is based on some actual facts), but more about the friendship of this troupe of actors and their loyalty to the man who provided the plays for their performances. It is also about allowing the work to be more than just words that people would hear about as history,m but to have them printed for all to see and share with the present and future populations of the world.

There is much truth and fact in this play and many comedic portions. Gunderson has done her homework and has created a story that can be followed by all audiences. Yes, even those who have a problem with the language as it was spoken during the days of yore, when Shakespeare wrote these plays. The language is not a problem with this production and all is clear as a bell. This of yourself as an audience member of The Globe, who after a show went with the cast to the local Pub and heard the actors speak of the Bard with the love that they had for him. Think of how you would feel if this were the case, and then he passed away. How would you feel about preserving his works and his legacy? If you take this attitude, you will find yourself on the side of these actors who are playing actors where this is the case!

“The Book of Will” will continue at Northlight Theatre, located at 9501 N. Skokie Blvd ( at Golf Road, just katy-corner from Old orchard Center) thru December 17th with performances as follows:

Tuesdays  7:30 p.m. 11/21 only

Wednesdays 1 p.m and 7:30 p.m.

Thursdays  7:30 p.m. NO PERFORMANCE Thanksgiving  11/23

Fridays  8 p.m.

Saturdays  2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Sundays  2:30 p.m.  and 7 p.m. on 11/26

Tickets range from $30- $81  students (subject to availability  $15)

they can be ordered by visiting the box office, calling 847-673-6300 or online at www.northlight.org

Plenty of free parking and you can also use public transportation to get there.

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “The Book of Will”.

 

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