Shakespeare in Love
Runs until Sunday, Oct. 8
9828 – 101 A Ave.
Tickets: Start at $25. Call 425-1820 or at http://www.citadeltheatre.com
As I always say about my Australian Shepherd cross, “So what’s not to love?” That sentiment came across as we watched a miniature greyhound heroically bound across the stage during Citadel Theatre’s production Shakespeare in Love.
Far from going to the dogs, this stage adaptation from the original 1998 movie of Shakespeare in Love that starred Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow, is an absolute charmer.
Directed by Citadel’s artistic director Daryl Cloran as a co-production with Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, the 21 cast members animate Cory Sincennes versatile and authentic-looking wooden replica of the Elizabethan era’s Rose Theatre.
For those unfamiliar with the comedic story, a budding Will Shakespeare is a playwright-on-the-make in London’s cutthroat world of theatre. Lacking a muse, he’s plagued with paralyzing writer’s block.
Penniless to the bone, Will promises a script to competing theatres in hopes of receiving a cash advance of a few farthings. But the squeeze is on and his blockage just magnifies until he encounters Viola de Lesseps.
She is a beautiful, wealthy, high-spirited young woman with a passion for theatre and especially Shakespeare’s poetry. He discovers his muse and both find inspiration in each other’s arms.
But it’s a doomed love affair. Viola is destined to marry Lord Wessex, a rather ruthless nobleman who values a luxurious dowry more than the bride. And Shakespeare has a wife and two children back in Stratford.
Although their stars are not aligned, Will’s creative juices are unlocked and his early romantic hit Romeo and Juliet is penned and produced.
Basing his adaptation completely on the Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard screenplay, Lee Hall has kept most of the major characters, providing tons of cameo roles delivered with fun and verve.
Andrew Chowan as Will Shakespeare has a natural lean, hungry look, but with enough fire in his belly to reach beyond his grasp. In a part that demands strong memory skills, emotive ability, physical endurance and quick thinking, on top of a solid grasp of rhythmic Shakespearean dialogue, he delivered on all counts.
Bahareh Yaragi captivated as the beautiful and wilful Viola de Lesseps. But when Yaragi switches into a disguise as a youthful looking male actor, she is less convincing. And that’s what makes her funny. We see through the disguise. Shakespeare and his theatrical cohorts do not.
Patricia Darbasie shines as Nurse, a bustling woman who dearly loves Viola and protects her charge from unwanted intrusions. And Sarah Constible as the imperious, red-wigged Queen Elizabeth I is a reminder of the toughness required from powerful women operating in a man’s world.
Former St. Albert Children’s Theatre alumnus Garett Ross is nearly unrecognizable as Henslowe, the bearded owner of the Rose Theatre. Although the real Henslowe was a savvy businessman, Ross’ character is a delightful gambler-drunkard with an eccentric grasp of theatre.
In fact, the audience is first introduced to the batty Henslowe when a brutish moneylender, Fennyman (Ashley Wright), gives him a shakedown for an overdue loan.
John Ullyatt steals every scene he’s in as the mincing Queen’s man, Tilney. With just the flick of a wrist, a chin thrust or a mock bow he brings Tilney’s pompousness to the forefront.
Farren Timoteo as Wabash, the stuttering tailor and wannabe actor, held the crowd in the palm of his hand while Kevin Klassen as the greedy, self-indulgent Lord Wessex is a reminder that sometimes evil triumphs.
The cast is stellar, the costumes are stunning and the comedy is a diverting romp from gloomy fall days. Shakespeare in Love runs until Oct. 8.