Love’s Labors Revealed

Love’s Labors Revealed

‘Shakespeare in Love’ sweet, romantic, funny, intimate


It is a policy of this publication that we don’t review anything but professional theater — because I refuse to critique the work of an unpaid actor who just drove like a demon to get to rehearsal after his 9 to 5 job, has a middle-schooler eating dinner in the back of the theater and won’t get to sleep until midnight.

That being said, “Shakespeare in Love” is fair game because TheatreSquared is the region’s only resident professional theater — but if you think I have anything negative to say, you clearly have not seen the show!

The production — based on the 1998 movie of the same title — is the first show in the company’s new space. The set, designed by William Boles (who also designed “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley”) is gorgeous, immediately transporting you to Shakespeare’s time. The costumes, designed by Ruby Kemph, T2’s resident costumer, are opulent when they should be and not when they shouldn’t. The music (Jason Burrow) is lovely, the fight scenes (D.C. Wright) exciting and the lighting (Shawn Irish) lovely.

As for the actors …

Steven Marzolf created such an arrogant, annoying Lord Wessex that I loved hating him! But I also loved loving Stephanie Bignault as Viola, Shakespeare’s muse; Matthew Goodrich as Shakespeare; and Alison England as the queen and Viola’s nurse. Truth is, all of the players lighted up the stage, and several are old friends of T2, which I like most!

Ah, but Romeo and Juliet — oops, I mean Shakespeare and Viola. I could not have adored these characters more had they been portrayed by Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey (even though they won’t know who those people are!) Bignault was so … sweet as Viola — not sickly sweet, but human and accessible and feisty and real. And Goodrich was handsome and dashing and romantic. When they played the “we have one night together and then everything is going to fall apart” scene, it was all I could do not to sob — and yes, this is a comedy.

But it is a comedy with heart — such a big heart, one that swells and breaks in equal proportions.

If you’ve never seen the show — and to me, any live performance is better than the movie — the premise is that Shakespeare needs to finish a new script, “Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter.” Meanwhile, across town, Viola dreams of having her moment on the stage — which she can’t do, because women are forbidden to appear on stage. So she tucks up her hair, puts on a fake mustache and goes to auditions — and is cast as Romeo.

Of course, at nearly the same time, Shakespeare happens to see Viola and falls head over heels in — well, in “crush,” at least. They meet, they woo, but her father has promised her hand to Lord Wessex; dad wants to be nobility, and Wessex wants to be rich.

You know how this turns out, right? They do not die, but they are separated forever. She will always inspire Shakespeare’s work, and he will remind her of the few short moments when she was free.

Which brings me back to Alison England as the queen. Her character is haughty and funny and likes the theater only when the play includes a dog. But she also has the most profound moment in the story, when she finds a way to let Viola finish the play — as Juliet — and keep her out of jail. But as she says, what God has joined together in marriage, even she cannot put asunder.

To me, the very best part of any play is seeing the joy and camaraderie of the company, and these actors have come from far and wide to create that feeling. TheatreSquared promised its new space would retain its old intimacy, and I can say from experience, it has.



‘Shakespeare in Love’

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 14-Sept. 15

WHERE — TheatreSquared, 477 W. Spring St., Fayetteville

COST — $26-$55

INFO — 777-7477

Categories: Cover Story