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BWW Review: ELIZABETH REX at Theatre At The Fort


The production runs until November 14th.

BWW Review: ELIZABETH REX at Theatre At The Fort The finale of this year's bard fest is Elizabeth Rex, a play based on the true story of the execution of the Earl of Essex, the Queen's lover, for treason. This fictionalized account takes us into a barn holding Shakespeare and his players on the eve of the execution. They receive a visit from the Queen on this pivotal night in her rule.

It's a regional premiere production and an absolute coup for the Bard Fest and a testament to how the event has grown over the years. The scale of the production reaches new heights on every level. This is also the first time they have produced in the Theater at the Fort in Lawrence. It's a beautiful space, and the set includes a two-tiered barn with lanterns and candles setting the mood.

The story explores the delicate balance Shakespeare had to find between writing powerful stories and not offending the Queen. It also debates the societal expectations placed on a ruler who was a woman in a traditionally male position of leadership.

Glenn Dobbs' direction pulls the audience into the complicated lives of these players. There is a balance of comedy and drama that matches the tone Shakespeare often embraced in his plays. The costumes are exquisite. Linda Findley Grow's creations are beyond lovely. In a production that relies heavily on audience immersion in the Elizabethan world, they proved to be a key element.

The show relies heavily on the shoulders of the two protagonists and they rise to the occasion. Jay C Hemphill is magnetic as Ned, a dying actor. He is passionate and dynamic and the pairing of charisma and brokenness is impossible to look away from. Holly Hathaway Thompson is remarkable as Queen Elizabeth. She captures the unmistakable gravitas of a monarch beautifully. Her cold mask slips only when she allows it to and she can convey so much fury in a single glance. The scenes between her and Ned were electric. Together they present a tender portrait of grief.

The show is a delight for Shakespeare lovers. It's a glimpse behind the curtain at the lives of the players and the Queen who rained during that time. It is a more modern play, originally produced in 2000, and the issues addressed reflect that. In this season, the Bard Fest has earned its established role as an anticipated part of Indy's fall theater season. I can't wait to see what they tackle next year.

Don't Miss the Show
Elizabeth Rex, the Bard Fest finale, will run until November 14. Every performance is held at The Theater at the Fort in Lawrence, 8920 Otis Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46216. Tickets are $20 - $25 and can be purchased at

Photos Courtesy of 2Slavens Photography

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From This Author Melissa Hall