Review Roundup: Did Critics Fall in Love with SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE at Asolo Rep?
SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, based on the Academy-Award winning film of the same name, opened at Asolo Rep on January 11th and runs through March 28th. Directed by Rachel Rockwell, SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE imagines the life of a young William Shakespeare, a writer struggling to come up with an idea for his next play. Enter Viola, a young woman who begins as his admirer and ends up as his muse.
The cast of Asolo Rep's SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE: Jordan Brown (Will Shakespeare), Matt Mueller (Kit Marlowe), Jack Wetherall (Henslowe), David Lively (Fennyman) Matthew McGee (Lambert/Wabash), Andrew Bosworth (Frees/Ensemble), David Breitbarth(Burbage), Colleen Lafeber (Mistress Quickly/Ensemble), Matt DeCaro (Tilney/Sir Robert de Lesseps), Sting The Dog (Spot), Peggy Roeder (Queen Elizabeth), Aleksandr Krapivkin (Valentine/Ensemble), Laura Rook (Viola de Lesseps), Catherine Smitko (Nurse), Rex Willis (Musician), Anthony J. Hamilton (Ralph/Ensemble), Nolan Fitzgerald Hennelly (Nol/Ensemble), Dustin Babin (Robin/Ensemble), Wes Tolman (Adam/Ensemble), Addison Ruscoe (John Webster), Brandon Dahlquist (Wessex) Nate Burger (Ned Alleyn), Christopher Carlson (Sam/Ensemble), Kedren Spencer (Molly/Ensemble), Mary Ellen Everett (Kate/Ensemble), Amy Helms (Ensemble), and Amber Lageman (Ensemble).
Let's hear what the critics had to say!
Jay Handelman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune: At Friday's opening, there was a lot of action, but it often seemed as though the actors were having more fun than the audience. But as the story becomes more about the efforts to get Shakespeare's play staged quickly, and the characters defend the importance of the art form, the entire enterprise becomes more compelling and exciting. The large cast is mostly terrific, from the pomposity of David Breitbarth as Burbage and Nate Burger as a prominent actor, to the worried calm of Jack Wetherall as Henslowe and the friendly and supportive demeanor of Matt Mueller as Kit Marlowe. David Lively is charming as Fennyman, who threatens Henslowe for the debts he is owed but quickly falls in love with the theater. You can truly feel his joy when he is given a small part in "Romeo and Juliet." The production also features some fun performances from Matt DeCaro in several roles, including a blustery officer of the queen, Catherine Smitko as Viola's Nurse, Christopher Carlson, as the actor playing Juliet, and Brandon Dahlquist as the demanding Wessex, who plans to marry Viola in what is essentially a business transaction. And audiences will surely fall for Sting the Dog who plays the well-trained Spot, a favorite of the Queen.
Marty Fugate, Your Observer: Jordan Brown's Shakespeare is a likable Everyman who just happens to be the greatest playwright of all time. Laura Rook's Viola is a talented force of nature. She's a great female actor living in an age when that's a crime. Matt Mueller is winning and witty as Christopher "Kit" Marlowe, Shakespeare's friend and rival playwright. (The Bard's always cribbing lines from Kit. An inside joke for theater scholars who think Marlowe penned Shakespeare's plays.) David Breitbarth is a hoot as Richard Burbage, the greatest canned ham of the Elizabethan era. As Viola's betrothed, Brandon Dahlquist's Wessex is the villain you love to hate. He's marrying Viola for the dowry money and pushing her around until he seals the deal with a ring. After that, Viola's financially motived fiancé plans to drag her to the savage land of Virginia. Queen Elizabeth is suitably icy and regal. (She wisely turns a blind eye to Viola's gender crime.) Queen Bess also wants to see a cute dog. The dog appears-and bites Wessex on the ankle. (A doggie treat to Sting for his performance.) Susan Mickey's costumes fit the period, but don't fit so tightly that the actors can't move. (With the comic exception of the queen's elaborate gown, which resembles a small circus tent.) Scott Davis' revolving, two-tiered set is officially the Rose Theater. But it echoes The Globe Theatre - and the turning world itself. A magical play calls for magical lighting. Robert Wierzel delivers. The result is spectacular, diverting, and ever so clever. The play aims for your heart, but doesn't ignore your mind. This warm-hearted, improbable romance is always a lot of fun.
Photo Courtesy of Asolo Rep.