Written by Vern Thiessen
Directed by Delia MacDougall
Marin Shakespeare Company
Elena Wright delivers a tour de force in Marin Shakes first one-actor play of Vern Thiessen’s well-crafted, imagined monodrama from the perspective of Shakespeare’s wife Anne Hathaway, the woman behind the man. Wright commands the stage from start to finish; having conversations with family members, singing Elizabethan folk tunes and creating a fully fleshed character from extremely limited historical information.
Its 1616, and Anne’s just returned from Bill’s burial, will in hand. Before she has a chance to read it, Anne journeys back to her fateful first meeting with the boy of few words. It’s lust at first sight as Anne loves the company of many, many men. Eight years his senior, her experience is enjoyed, although there’s a slight chance that Bill might be gay. Anne’s father disapproves highly – Bill’s Catholic, the son of a glove maker, and god-forbid, writer.
Shakespeare’s off to London, a perk in their mutual decision to lead independent lives, leaving young Anne to raise their three children. With little emotional support, Anne must save her family when the plague hits, deal with the hired help and the scorn of Shakespeare’s sister Joan. There’s a nice balance between the pathos of an abandoned mother and the humorous strength of will Anne possesses.
Talking to her hive of bees, with whom she shares her secrets, Anne has her own lovers and makes the most of her circumstances. There’s numerous references to the sea; gulls, the mist and smells, and the seafaring tale her father. Her escape to the sea mirrors a childhood memory of her mother’s death to the plague when the family escaped to the shore.
Wright delivers Thiessen’s poetic script with the wit and skill of a seasoned Shakespearean actor. April George’s lovely lighting creates the brilliant summer suns and muted interiors of Anne’s bedroom. Utilizing a few spare objects in Jackson Currier’s set, Wright creates a triumphant modern female character who rises above her circumstances to become fully self-realized.
When Bill’s will bequeaths her cherished home to Joan, and she’s left only her long-empty marriage bed, Anne realizes her husband has broken their unusual vows. He blames her for the death of his male lineage. Anne leave one last time for a new life at the shore, a symbol of the fluid nature of her will and desires.
There’s so many tributes, movies and plays focusing on the man himself. I found it fascinating to see the flip side perspective Shakespeare’s Will imagines. A 1970’s feminist phrase intoned “Behind every great man is a great woman”. Even imagined, Anne Hathaway is pretty great.
Shakespeare’s Will continues through July 8th, 2018 at Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, Dominican University of California, 890 Belle Avenue, San Rafael. Tickets are available online at http://www.marin shakespeare.org or by calling 415-499-4488.
Photo credit by Jay Yamada.