(press photos by Dave Smithson)
Written by Patrick Chavis
Typically, we watch theater and films inspired by William Shakespeare, the genius playwright from the 1500s who influenced dramatic writing for generations to come. But in Shakespeare in Love, we ask what inspired Shakespeare?
Shakespeare in Love won the 1999 Academy Award for Best Picture Oscar in 1999 and multiple other awards. It was a huge hit. Besides being an innovative approach to covering Shakespeare’s tale in a new way, it had an all-star cast of actors: Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, and Ben Affleck. The talent goes on and on with this one. The story is fiction, of course. No one knows exactly what inspired Shakespeare to write his plays beyond the monetary incentive. But doesn’t it warm your heart to know there may have been something deeper behind all those famous lines and prose? This warm feeling is what inspires the plot of the story.
A young William Shakespeare (Bobby Gonzalez), well-known but not incredibly famous at the moment, is experiencing writer’s block. He discovers a talented actor by the name of Thomas Kent (Callie Prendiville Johnson) and falls in love with the beautiful betrothed lady Viola De Lesseps (Callie Preniville Johnson). Unbeknownst to Shakespeare, his muse and his talent are the same people. This causes many issues for the playwright, but at least he no longer has writer’s block.
I previously watched the film version and enjoyed it at the time. That being said, there’s something great about watching this show staged as a play instead of a movie — especially because of the clever way Brain Johnson staged some of the scenes. They designed a small movable wooden box on stage with blue curtains used for multiple purposes. The most unique and exciting was when the curtains became a makeshift curtain for the performance letting the audience perceive the performance as if we were backstage watching the show as one of the performers.
The performances of the two leads, Johnson and Gonzalez, were quite good, in my estimation. I can’t say that about the whole cast since the performance level varies, albeit not to a large extent.
It was a pleasure to watch Wyatt Logan’s portrayal of Ned Alleyn on stage. He had just the right amount of arrogance and bravado needed for the character.
I attended opening night, and there were sound issues. Hopefully, future performances will be rectify the issues.
The show ends with a special little treat. Stay for the whole thing — trust me — it’s worth it.