Shakespeare in Love. Adapted to the stage by Lee Hall, based on the screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard. Directed by Jasson Minadakis. Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Drive, Mill Valley, CA.
Poor Will Shakespeare. I mean really poor Will Shakespeare. He’s in debt, borrowing money right and left, promising plays he can’t provide due to a writer’s block. His best friend Cristopher Marlowe is giving him advice, and his new play Romeo and Ethel, the Pirates Daughter is sputtering along with a ragtag band of misfit wanna-be actors. Along comes a new love and a new muse in the form of stage-struck Viola de Lesseps, who adores Will and knows his works by heart. This lovely, witty, heartwarming must-see Elizabethan romance sparkles and shines in Jasson Minadakis’ magnificent staging.
Blessed with a ridiculously talented cast, Shakespeare in Love mimics the Bards plays including intrigue, mistaken identities, drama and of course, romance. The Academy-award winning movie of the same name was a smash hit in 1998 and Hall’s adaptation is a love fest for theatre; a backstage look at the trials and tribulations of bringing a playwright’s thoughts to fruition. Minadakis boldly uses only 13 actors to play 35 roles, nine playing musical instruments throughout.
The assembled cast is a who’s who of Bay Area favorites and they all have a ball with the witty script and sheer physicality of the action. Adam Magill plays Will; Megan Trout is Viola; L. Peter Callender is actor Richard Burbage; Stacy Ross is Queen Elizabeth; Mark Anderson Phillips is the miserly Fennyman; Lance Gardner is Fennyman’s henchman; Sango Tajima is the young rascal, John Webster; Kenny Toll is both Christopher Marlowe and actor Ned Alleyn; Thomas Gorrebeeck is the incorrigible Wessex; Robert Sicular the rival theatre manager; Ben Euphrat as the gender bending ingénue, Sam; Liam Vincent as the novice actor, Ralph; and Brian Herndon as the evil Lord Chamberlain. This is one powerful ensemble, obviously delighted to be a part of this production and delivering sparkling performances.
Minadakis’ staging is one of the stars of this production. The scene changes are flawless, providing an underlying energy and fluidity to the production. He’s assembled a fantastic technical crew to create the authenticity of the Elizabethan era. Kit Conley’s scenic design, Katherine Nowacki’s costumes, Kurt Landisman’s lighting, Betsy Norton’s stage management, Jennifer Reason’s musical direction and Dave Maier and Liz Tenuto’s fight staging and choreography are all top-notch as one has come to expect from an MTC production.
Shakespeare in Love has so much going for it; real historical perspective based on actual characters, as well as the playwrights imagined characters like Viola, her arranged suitor Wessex and Fennyman, the money lender. It skillfully blends romance with drama while tackling issues of equality, the creative process and the nuts and bolts of staging a theatrical production. MTC’s production distills Shakespeare in Love, making it leaner and more efficient, delivering a top-notch two hours of pure delight.
Performances run thru December 17, 2017 www.marintheater.org 415.388.5208