- Monte’s fine action-aplenty direction provides enough amusing, exuberant, rowdy and bawdy goings-on to fill two shows..
Review: at curtainup.com/NJ http://www.curtainup.com/.html (2017 New Jersey)
Shakespeare in Love | a Curtainup NJ Review
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A CurtainUp NJ Review
Shakespeare in Love
A month overdue to Henslowe but nothing comes. I have lost my gift, Kit. I don’t know what it is. My quill is broken, my well is dry. The proud tower of the imagination hath collapsed completely. — Will
Shaespeare in love
Jon Barker and Whitney Maris Brown (photo credit: Jerry Dalia(
The first question I have about Lee Hall’s stage adaptation of the 1998 Oscar-winning film Shakespeare in Love with its brilliant screenplay by Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman is why is it nearly three hours long (including an intermission)? The film takes only two hours to play around with a fiction regarding the Bard’s early love life? The stage version is not a musical. . . although it should really have been reconceived as such. The second question is why the need for a stage version that brings nothing new to what had been a glorious and magical movie event? This stage version had a moderate one-season run in London in 2014 and never made the transfer to Broadway. It has, however, had a busy afterlife in regional theatres with this production marking its Metropolitan area debut.

Oh, I have a third question. What lies behind theatre-lover Queen Elizabeth’s peculiar request/ need to have a dog in every play presented before her? Okay, so let’s see how many tricks the dog - as identified in the program as Dublin Delancy McFinnigan - can perform while the actors wait their turn in the early minutes of the play.

Once that is over, we can turn our attention over to the tricks by humans can do that director Bonnie J. Monte employs to maintain a momentum that comes as goes along with the many lines in the play that are taken straight from the quill of William Shakespeare. To be fair, Monte’s staging is appropriately frantic given the particulars of the convoluted plot. Her fine action-aplenty direction provides enough amusing, exuberant, rowdy and bawdy goings-on to fill two shows.

For the record, Hall’s recycling of the original screenplay is quite admirable. For many seeing the antic cavorting of the characters from the film on stage will be a treat. But like many a comedy that goes on for too long, Shakespeare in Love appears padded and is ultimately enervating.

The action takes place in various locations in 1593 London during the reign of Elizabeth all within a multi-functional tiered gallery well designed by Brian Clinnin. The changes in venue are easily attended to by the actors bringing and removing tables and chairs as needed. A good part of the mostly rough and tumble fun is derived from recognizing some still incubating lines from Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies. It becomes like a game for those in the know and will still get a chuckle from the rest.

The play proposes that Shakespeare suffered greatly from writer’s block and was not opposed to stealing words and ideas from his contemporaries, notably his friend and rival Kit Marlow. This affliction certainly propels the plot in which he is attempting to compose and cast a comedy with a character named Romeo and his romance with the daughter of a pirate. Don’t you know that he unwittingly falls madly in love with a young woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman - shades of Victor Victoria.

At its best, the play is a rollicking and raucous view of backstage life and the rivalry between competing producers and their backers, the jealous playwrights and all those both terrible and terrific actors who like to play dress-up in designer Nikki Delhomme’s period-perfect costumes. Between raising the money and raising the roof, all the characters appear to be having a swell time. The production was enhanced nicely by some period dances choreographed by Danielle Liccardo and authentic musical accompaniment Kris Kukul.

Jon Baker is a lanky and love-starved Will Shakespeare and Whitney Maris Brown postures with finesse in and out of drag as Viola de Lesseps. In standout support among the play’s many scene stealers are Marcus Den fuller as Wessex, Ames Adamson, as Fennyman, Anthony Marble as Kit Marlow and a particularly droll Edmond Genest as Henslowe among a company of cutups in a play that needs a little judicial cutting.

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Shakespeare in Love Adapted by Lee Hall
Based on the screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard
Directed by Bonnie J. Monte

Cast of Principals: Ames Adamson (Fennyman), John Barker (Will Shakespeare), Whitney Maris Brown (Viola de Lesseps), Marcus Dean Fuller (Wessex), Edmond Genest (Henslowe), David Andrew Macdonald (Richard Burbage), Anthony Marble (Kit Marlowe)
Music: Paddy Cunneen
Music Director: Kris Kukul
Production Stage Manager: Denise Cardarelli
Scenic Designer: Brian Clinnin
Costume Designer: Nikki Delhomme
Lighting Designer: Steven Rosen
Fight Director: Rick Sordelet
Period Dance Consultant: Danielle Liccardo
Running Time: 2 hours 45 minutes including intermission
Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, 36 Madison Avenue, Madison, N.J. (on the campus of Drew University)
(973) 408 - 5600
Tickets: $69.00
Performances: Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays at 7:30 pm; Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8 pm; matinees Saturdays and Sundays at 2 pm.
From 10/11/17 Opened 10/14/17 Ends 11/12/17
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 10/15/17

NJ Theaters
NJ Theatre Alliance
Discount Tix Information

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