BWW Review: Audiences fall in love with SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE at TheatreSquared
Shakespeare may have been in love with Viola in this season's premiering romance/comedy Shakespeare in Love at the brand new installation for TheatreSquared, 477 W. Spring Street, in Downtown Fayetteville, but I was in love with this theatre the moment I stepped inside the venue. The look of the building, the eagerness from the staff, and the fun coming from my fellow patrons made Wednesday night's (Aug. 28) production immensely enjoyable. Running through September 15, this performance is a must see.
Based from the movie of the same name, this show tells the tale of William Shakespeare (Matthew Goodrich) having a bit of writers block and finding his muse through Viola (Stephanie Bignault). His love affair with her becomes his inspiration for Romeo and Juliet. During all of that, they give you a very hilarious look behind the scenes in this fictitious creation of characters collaborating and the "mystery" of theatre unfolding.
The whole show was beautiful! Costume Designer Ruby Kemph really created visually stunning pieces that gave the eyes a workout trying to take in all of the detail. My favorite was Queen Elizabeth's dress--WOW--really. Absolutely magnificent. I have no idea how actress Allison England moved around in that massive showpiece. And speaking of Ms. England, her ease on the stage and cohesiveness to her characters did not go unnoticed. And what a stealthy actress she is. At one point of the show, she sat right behind me in that magnanimous gown, and I and my seatmates had no idea she was even there. We may have jumped just a little when she spoke up...so enjoyable.
The season seat holders beside me, who said that these shows are their guaranteed date nights, raved about the difference the area was from the last venue. The stage was bigger and there were possibly more seats, but the height is what really impressed them. The two story set looked like scenic designer William Boles flew it in from a Shakespeare play in England. Beautiful, absolutely beautiful! They also spoke that the spirit of the company seemed to be duplicated in the new theatre. They were having a great time.
I do confess that I only saw the movie when it first came out a couple of decades ago, so I had no real perceived expectations to the actual play. My younger companion noted that the singing was added and the minor character Rosaline was disappontedly omitted. Her favorite character was Viola; I leaned more toward Queen Elizabeth.
Of course Goodrich had a strong hold on Shakespeare. His demonstration on how to kiss on stage was demanding and his artistic breakdown, I feel, really grasped the understanding of creative souls going through their struggles of honing their craft. Bignault's passion for the arts were shown through her character, yet still portraying her strength and vulnerability as a woman in a man's world. Steven Marzolf's Lord Wessex was one I loved to hate. With his hand on his hip and a smirk in his persona, he paraded around with an arrogant demeanor that made me want to boo and applaud at the same time.
Other notable scene grabbers were Justin Cunningham doubling as Kit Marlowe and making a grand entrance as the actor playing Mercutio and seventh-grader Beck Crabb playing the ambitious John Webster. The detail in all of the side activities and conversations were really impressive, especially when all of the actors were warming up before rehearsal. The pelvic thrusts and Tai Chi really added humor to the scene. And let us not forget the dog. Wednesday night's show had Pearl, who was recently an extra on HBO's True Detective. Well trained and well behaved, Pearl stole her scenes and proved to be able to handle the stage just as well has her human counterparts.
Though at times I was in the position where the actors' backs were toward me and the dialogue was not understandable, all of the performers made up for it with enthusiasm and owning their characters. Co-directors Amy Herzberg and Aimee Hayes did an outstanding job with this production, and I can't wait to see another production at TheatreSquared.
To purchase tickets for Shakespeare in Love or for more information on upcoming shows, check out their website at www.theatre2.org, or call (479) 445-6333.