The imaginative concept of this play intrigued me. Author David Blixt wrote a novel about the origin story of two Elizabethan playwrights: William Shakespeare (played by Javier Ferreira) and Christopher Marlowe (played by Bryan Bosque). Shakespeare is teaching school under the name Falstaff. He’s hiding from authorities because of a drunken infraction. Marlowe is a spy for the Crown. When their lives collide, they join forces to undercover a conspiracy against the queen. Intriguing, right? It has all my favorite fixings… period piece, origin story, Lifeline.
Adapter Robert Kauzlaric brings Blixt’s novel to stage. Kauzlaric spends a lot of time setting up the story. Heavy exposition, particularly in the first act, make it seem like Ferreira and Bosque are reading a book out loud as they explain their backstories to each other. Kauzlaric even adds a narrator (played by Heather Chrisler) to give it a framework. The detailed start is sluggish. Within the series of monologues, Kauzlaric sprinkles intellectual wit. He has Shakespeare say to Marlowe, ‘I would never take credit for someone else’s work.’ The joke falls flat. I’m not sure if it’s lost in the wordy interaction or if the notion is unfamiliar to the audience. Kauzlaric doesn’t heighten the humor enough to be madcap. And the heavy dialogue keeps the drama from being action-packed. It’s not quite a comedy or a thriller.
Despite the lukewarm script, Director Chris Hainsworth orchestrates moments of innovative adventure. Aided by Designer Eleanor Kahn’s multi-functional set, an oversized armoire on wheels spins into a carriage. Kahn’s dusky rooftop windows and movable metal framework are effectively used to simulate some chase scenes and swashbuckling antics. The action is secondary to the ongoing focus on Ferreira and Bosque. Act 2 brings in colorful support from the ensemble (Peter Greenberg , Don Bender, Dan Cobbler, LaQuin Groves, Martel Manning, Mike Ooi). Although the motley crew bring the shenanigans, their attempts to lighten the mood with merriment feel more silly than humorous. At my performance, the audience’s response was uncomfortably quiet. The laughter was infrequent.
Running Time: Two hours and fifteen minutes includes an intermission
At Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood Ave.
Written by David Blixt
Adapted by Robert Kauzlaric
Directed by Chris Hainsworth
Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays at 4 and 8 p.m.
Sundays at 4 p.m.
Thru July 16th
Buy Tickets at www.lifelinetheatre.com.
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