Theatre Bay Area Heaps Honors on Shakespeare in Love as Truly a Gift for the Holidays


Theatrical adaptations usually go in this direction: book first, then film, and then stage.  Shakespeare in Love is more for the stage.  It started as a popular film, winning 7 Academy Awards, including best picture, Best Staged Screenplay in 1998, and then it was changed into a play, at last.  The stage version, written by Lee Hall just ended a successful run at Marin Theatre Company, December 23rd.  Some people will recall Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard‘s “NEW” production.  The two shows are close cousins – almost twins.  Do you suppose there will be a book, next?

Each adaptation depicts the pressures of theatrical life in Shakespeare’s time and the fierce completion among stage entrepreneurs.

At Marin Theatre Company‘s production, the set by Kat Conley was bare-bones but equipped with a ten-piece-band and multiple layers to accommodate the large cast of 13 actors in 35 roles.  Only Shakespeare (Adam Magill) and Viola (Megan Trout) played one character each throughout.

Shakespeare in Love opened with the Bard being hounded by both completions and credits and suffering a desperate case of writer’s block.  He had interested customers with his latest creations – a comedy called Romeo and Ethel, and the Pirate’s Daughter, but he can’t seem to get down to work on either of them.  To shake some inspiration, he and a friend, Christopher, crash a ball being thrown by the wealthy father of Viola De at which he plans to introduce Viola to Lord Wessex.  Wessex knows that a generous dowry comes with her.  (He has a title but no money.)

At the ball, Shakespeare dances with Viola, and the two fall in love with each other.  Already the story is looking kind of familiar, but there is more.  Eventually, Viola learns that Shakespeare is married and the father of twins.  Even Her Majesty can’t do anything about that.  The lovers must make their own unhappy conclusions.

Director Jasson Minadakis provided a splendid cast of characters.  Magill was very convincing as Shakespeare.  Stacy Ross was quite regal as Queen Elizabeth and very maternal as Viola’s long- time nurses.

Peter Callender made a commanding Burbage, one of Shakespeare’s rivals, with Robert Sicular as Philip Herndon, both anxious for a new Shakespeare script. Kenny Toil had three roles, one of which was Christopher Marlow, a close friend and fellow-writer. Mark Anderson Phillips played Fennyman with an exploitable weakness.  Thomas Gorrebeeck was Wessex as well Tybalt (a character from Shakespeare’s new play).  Brian Herndon was Tilney, the Queen’s censor.  Tango Tijima was spirited as John, the young apprentice, and Liam Vincent was the novice actor Ralph.

Dave Makier directs the splendid sword fights.  Jennifer Reason directed the music and Kate Nowacki designed the handsome period costumes “Shakespeare in Love” is a delightful got for the holidays from Marin Theatre Company.


January 25 through February 18, 2018, next at Marin Theatre Company will be Skeleton Crew, written by Dominique Morrisseau and Directed by Jade King Carroll 

Flora Lynn Isaacson