BWW Review: The Central New York Playhouse Presents SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE
The Central New York Playhouse is now entertaining audiences with the delightful romantic comedy Shakespeare in Love. The play by Lee Hall is adapted from the popular 1998 film of the same name. With numerous productions of Romeo and Juliet occurring throughout Central New York the timing is perfect for a refreshing relief, a play that is about writing Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Even better, the production is witty, refreshing, and entertaining.
It comes as no surprise that the production showcases spot on casting and devoted performers all under the direction of Dustin Czarny. Czarny founded Not Another Theater Company which later became The Cental New York Playhouse or what some call the "theater the in mall." Czarny has been involved in the Central New York theater community for over 25 years. He has produced over 100 shows in his ten years serving as Artistic director at the Central New York Playhouse. His devotion, hard work, vision, and heart will definitely be missed as his time in theater comes to an end. The Central New York Playhouse has now been passed on to a new board of directors Abel Searor, Keith Arlington, Elizabeth Allers, Kate Crawford, Dan Randall, and Patricia Catchouny.
Now back to the play and Director Czarny's triumphant farewell to the stage where he also takes on the appropriate role of Henslowe, the theater owner that believes in theater, the stage, and its ability to solve problems. Unfortunately, in the opening of the play Henslowe owes money to his producers so he needs a hit production for his stage.
In the theater world there must be writers to provide the delightful, emotional, thought-provoking, and entertaining stories that people flock to the theater to see. Shakespeare in Love follows a young Will Shakespeare (Jeremiah Thompson) who is unfortunately experiencing writer's block and needs the right inspiration to pen his next comedy. Young Will has some ideas for his new comedy, Romeo and Ethel the Pirate's Daughter, a play that he has promised to two different theater companies. Friend and fellow playwright Christopher Marlowe (Chris Toia) gives a little creative tip to Shakespeare for his play but this still doesn't seem to be enough. It is not until he meets a brilliant and lovely lady named Viola (Bella Lupia) that he regains his ability for prose. Viola is a devoted theater lover that easily recites the lines along with the actors and is a fan of Shakespeare's plays. She disguises herself as a man (women are not allowed to act on stage) and auditions for Shakespeare's not quite yet fully written play. This new talented actor that walks into the auditions may just be what Shakespeare needs for inspiration for a play that becomes Shakespeare's masterpiece known as Romeo and Juliet.
Taking on the role of young Will Shakespeare is actor Jeremiah Thompson. Thompson delivers every word with such passion, charm, and comedic ability. His devotion to the character is evident. His chemistry with Bella Lupia as Viola is spot on. I applaud Dustin for always welcoming a new face in a leading role because the result is perfection.
Bella Lupia seems to be meant for this role with her superb and eloquent line delivery, poised stage presence, and witty charm. Like Thompson, her devotion to the character is evident in her portrayal. Her portrayal of the young girl in love with Shakespeare and the stage for that matter is extremely powerful in her expressive performance.
The rest of the very large cast all deliver heartwarming and delightful performances making this a very entertaining, comedic production. A few other standouts include Chris Toia as Marlowe with all his charm, confidence, and energy. Jennie Russo as the Nurse with her spot on line delivery and spunky chemistry with Bella Lupia. Zach Gray delivers a comedic and entertaining performance as Lord Wessex, the man that Viola is unfortunately betrothed to. Marcia Mele's stage presence is grand and memorable as the Queen. Christopher James Lupia always entertains with his energetic, passionate, and over the top performances. Josh Taylor as Burbage is a highlight with his skillful line delivery and charm. Jim Magnarelli as Fennyman shows off his comedic skills in the role. Phil Brady, often seen on stage at CNY Playhouse, delivers his best performance yet as Ralph. Whitney Tenney Pak's vocals, singing Renaissance tunes, soars beautifully from the stage.
Finally, Grant Czarny as Webster seems to be enjoying every minute on stage in his charming role. Watching him watch his father's performance on stage was perfection as he beams with pride as Dustin Czarny entertains the audience with his comedic line delivery. Luckily for the Central New York theater community there seems to be another Czarny that has the heart for the stage.
Shakespeare in Love at the Central New York Playhouse is a must see because the play is just hilarious and easily entertains. It showcases a top notch cast of community theater actors. Most of all it is a must see because it is the final production of Dustin Czarny, if you have never seen a show under his direction don't miss your chance to see a production that entertains and "fulfills."
From the director's note in the playbill Director Czarny explains what theater is to him. "A place to not escape our real lives, but enhance and grow and become fulfilled." I want to say thank you to Dustin Czarny's devotion to the Central New York theater community because his leadership and devotion is inspiring. His time in the theater community has without a doubt brought fulfillment into the lives of many actors, dancers, musicians, artists, and audience members.
Running Time: Approximately two hours and twenty minutes with one twenty-minute intermission.
Shakespeare in Love runs through February 29, 2020 at the Central New York Playhouse located in Shopping Town Mall in Syracuse, New York. For tickets and information on this production and upcoming productions at the Central New York Playhouse click here.