Shakespeare in Love a winner at Marin Theatre Company.

Megan Trout (Viola de Lesseps) and Adam Magill (Will Shakespeare) Photo credit: Kevin Berne

SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE: Screenplay by Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman. Adapted for the stage by Lee Hall. Directed by Jasson Minadakis.   Marin Theatre Company (MTC), 397 Miller Ave.,| Mill Valley, CA www.marintheatre.org or 415.388.5208 

November 24, 2017 – December 17, 2017  Rating: ★★★★★ EXTENDED TO DECEMBER 23

Shakespeare in Love a winner at Marin Theatre Company.

As luck would have it, this reviewer was seated next to the husband of one of the major actors who is an icon in the Bay Area. I asked during intermission if he aided her with learning her dialog. He replied that her dialog was minimal compared to other roles she has played but the rehearsals were grueling often going 8 hours a day. Those grueling rehearsals have translated into a fascinating evening of theatre with 13 actors performing 35 roles (often playing a musical instrument) that initially was staged with 28 actors for its world premiere in London before its North American debut at the Stratford Festival in Ontario in 2016.

The stage play is based on the Academy Award winning movie of the same name written by Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman. Lee Hall’s script is a jewel that has earned its own fame and will be a challenge for regional theatres. Director Minadakis and his very capable cast studded with local favorites takes on the challenge in full tilt using a utilitarian set that allows the action to flow uninterrupted as a reward to the intense rehearsals.

It is not only a romantic comedy with young Will Shakespeare (Adam Magill)  falling in love with the fictional character of stage struck Viola de Lesseps (Megan Trout) but also a back stage look at theatrical life in the 1500s that had some of the same problems as modern day productions. These include egotistical actors, auditions, financial backing and the nuts and bolts of staging. The line that the actors will share the “profits” elicits a “What Profits?” response. Never-the-less actors must act and the show (might) go on.

Will who “has potential as a playwright” has writer’s block while creating “Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter” and has promised the script to two acting troops. His good friend Christopher Marlowe, (Kenny Toll) helps out with the dialog in a scene reminiscent of “Cyrano De Bergerac” that creates understanding laughs with perversion of the familiar lines from “Romeo and Juliet” being directly implied that Marlowe is the “real Shakespeare.”

There are multiple restatements of lines from Shakespeare’s play that evoke knowing laughs from the audience. But it is not a funny matter for actor Burbage (L. Peter Callender) who has prepaid for a script, nor for theatre producer Henslowe (Robert Sicular), usurer Fennyman (Mark Anderson Phillips) and Tilney (Brian Herndon) the censor who throws wrench into the planned performance to be.

A major plot twist revolves about the fact that females are not allowed on the stage and prepubescent boys dress as women for major roles. Viola who is from a prominent family has been betrothed to money hungry Wessex (Thomas Gorrebeeck) who is the villain allowing the authors to write in sword fighting scenes that are both violent and hysterical.

When Will and Viola meet she is disguised as a boy with a soft voice and would be a good choice for the part of Ethyl. That role eventually becomes Juliet when Will’s writer block dissolves and the play becomes (as you knew it would) the classic Romeo and Juliet. Will and Viola’s relationship somewhat follow the R & J storyline with some very intense intensely played by Magill and Trout.

Fortunately for the thespians, writers and producers, Queen Elizabeth (Stacy Ross) likes theatrical comedy especially if there is a dog in the play. Yes there is Spot the Dog (real live Molly the dog) in the play. The Queen has an integral role in plot and Stacy Ross keeps a regal appearance while descending the two story moveable metal staircase dressed in a minimal of finery.

After a plethora of shenanigans, R & J is to be produced but alas the boy playing Juliet has reached puberty with the appropriate voice change. Who will play Juliet? Viola, of course and despite attempts to keep the play off the boards an alternate site is found and the show goes on. The penultimate scene is a “back-stage” drama reminiscent of “Noises Off.”

Added to the fine acting and musical playing by this first-rate cast it is Minadakis’ staging and direction that is the star of this show that makes this two hour production (plus an intermission) a “must see” production.

CAST: Megan Trout as Viola de Lesseps; Adam Magill as Will Shakespeare; L. Peter Callender as Richard Burbage; Stacy Ross as Queen Elizabeth I; Mark Anderson Phillips as Fennyman; Lance Gardner as Fennyman’s loyal henchman, Lambert; Sango Tajima as the young rascal, John Webster; Kenny Toll as both the tragically talented Kit Marlowe, and grandiose egoist Ned Alleyn; Thomas Gorrebeeck as the greedy fiancee, Wessex; Robert Sicular as rival theater manager, Henslowe; Ben Euphrat as the lovable ingenue, Sam; Liam Vincent as the novice actor, Ralph; and Brian Herndon as the Lord Chamberlain and Queen’s watchdog, Tilney.

CREATIVE TEAM: Director, Jasson Minadakis; Stage Manager, Betsy Norton; Scenic Designer, Kat ConIey; Costume Designer, Katherine Nowacki; Lighting Designer, Kurt Landisman; Music Director, Jennifer Reason; Sound Designer, Sara Huddleston; Fight Director, Dave Maier; Choreographer, Liz Tenuto; Dialect Coach, Jessica Berman; Production Dramaturg, Laura A. Brueckner; Casting Director, Dori Jacob; Assistant Director, Alessandro McLaughlin.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com

Megan Trout (Viola de Lesseps), Adam Magill (Will Shakespeare), and L. Peter Callender (Boatman) Photo credit: Kevin Berne.

Megan Trout (Viola de Lesseps) and Adam Magill (Will Shakespeare)