Kentlands Community Players’ “Shakespeare in Love” is a delight


One might think it’s paradoxical to pair decadent, decadent elegance with a minimalist, intimate space. You’ll change your mind by going to see Kentlands Community Players’ Shakespeare in love at the Gaithersburg Arts Barn.

Shakespeare in love is adapted for the stage by Lee Hall from the screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard, whose 1998 film of the same name won seven Oscars, including Best Picture. It portrays a young William Shakespeare as a starving actor and budding playwright who finds himself uninspired and frustrated. He can barely come up with rhymes, let alone ones that fit the mood, and he swings between comedy and drama depending on the word that comes his way. He even needs his own muse, Kit (Christopher) Marlowe, who provides him with phrases that he uses to move on to the next line, to request his muse again. It brings humor, irony and the testimony of a giant who does not yet know his historical place in the world. Historical note: There are those who believe that Marlowe is a ghostwriter for Shakespeare, with rumors rivaling that of a fictional plot.

Christopher Martin as Will and Cecilia Lindgren as Viola in “Shakespeare in Love”. Photo by Chris Fogle.

One of Gaithersburg’s most intimate and satisfying theatrical spaces, the Gaithersburg Arts Barn offers a 99-seat proscenium that serves as the setting for the set. Director Bruce Hirsch uses the space to its full potential. There are apartments on either side of the stage that will later be used as an innovative pop-up boudoir (kudos to set designer Matthew Ratz and master builder Mark Ludder!), providing the show’s French stuffing, and several cubes that serve any purpose and are expertly reconfigured between scenes by cast and crew. There is a Juliet-style balcony that sits on the stage, with Shakespeare and Marlowe shrinking in place to provide the visual from different heights. There are tables, chairs and a bar that turn on and off quickly and quietly. It’s a feat to constantly change the scenery while the audience barely notices the transitions; Stage manager Charlie Van Kirk kept things running smoothly. Hirsch uses the entrances and exits of the theater as part of the scenery. The front doors (and at a minimum, the back doors) of the theater serve as entry and exit points, and the front row of the theater is reserved for actors to watch the play within a play. One can only imagine how the person sitting behind Queen Elizabeth must have felt trying to look over her headdress canopy.

Costume designer Elizabeth Weiss, who doubles as hair and make-up artist (and Queen Elizabeth with a perfectly wacky tone, monarchical cackle, and hoop skirt that looks like the big top circus), knows how to complete a scene with nothing more than clothes. , make-up and well-chosen hair or wigs. Sound designer and director Bruce Hirsch creates the depth of the environment using sound brilliantly. Two cubes, cold colored light and the sound of bubbling water create the atmosphere of rowing on a lake so perfectly that you can imagine the misty twilight scene with nothing else. Lighting designer Marc Wright creates atmosphere throughout, shifting the set to a different time of day or location with an abundance of color shifts. Each interlude has friendly and celebratory, and sometimes ominous music.

Choreographer Vanessa Bisbee Markowitz does a wonderful job creating a simple yet dynamic dance that serves as Shakespeare’s first encounter with Viola. Everyone was able to follow in the steps of this time-accurate dance, a tribute to Bisbee Markowitz and his characteristic pedagogical style. Intimacy coach Helen Aberger played an important role, given the romance and (shh) sex present on the show. Andie Allison has done a good job with the properties.

Now on to the main attraction: the performances. As Shakespeare, Christopher Martin has developed a character that begins as uninspired, bored, and surly. He resents the lack of talent around him while being aware that he produces nothing. Martin is a delight, bringing true childhood infatuation to the character so naturally that by the end of Act I, my face aches from smiling at his joy. He brings just as much grief and shame to Act 2, when he realizes his playful games are having dire consequences. His physical comedy, crisp voice, connection to other actors, and character arc make him what a starring role should be: the heart of the show. He sells it 100%.

Naomi Ratz as Nurse and Cecilia Lindgren as Viola in “Shakespeare in Love.” Photo by Chris Fogle.

Shakespeare’s love interest is the wealthy spitfire named Viola De Lesseps, who aspires to be an actor and serves as a mistaken identity gimmick on the show. Played with a consistency of character unmatched in the series, Cecilia Lindgren is poised, playful, sexy, and full of heart. His chemistry with Martin is tangible, and as you see it take shape, you root to fuck him. Lindgren can communicate with a slight lift of his lip, a raised eyebrow, and a genuine twinkle in his eye. As actor Thomas Kent, Viola’s fake mustache kept coming off, and while it was clearly unintentional, it brought on laughs as Lindgren improvised in multiple ways each time the mustache dangled in. his mouth.

One of the most satisfying relationships is that between William Shakespeare and Christopher (Kit) Marlowe, thanks in large part to Matthew Ratz. His Marlowe, the Cyrano de Bergerac of Martin’s Shakespeare, is committed, somewhat mischievous and serious without ego. His presence calms the surly Shakespeare and his generous performance allows Martin to shine while unwittingly shining. He took a role that could have been dry and added offbeat depth. Well done, Mr. Ratz.

As the Fennyman backer, veteran Washington actor Joe Mariano brings his impeccable comedic timing with his wallet, going from histrionic kvetching to his hilarious delight at being given a small role in this play’s debut. His menacing bookmaker arc to backstage diva provided the biggest laughs of the night, with Mariano throwing himself into the role as he always does. It evokes vibrations of Office manager Michael Scott, thinking he’s the most brilliant actor and practicing his only line as if he were giving the Gettysburg Address. It chews up the landscape as it is meant to be eaten, in huge, delicious bites.

Christopher Martin, Thomas Schiller, Cecilia Lindgren, Hamza Elnaggar, Andie Allison, Elizabeth Weiss and Maureen Betz in “Shakespeare in Love”. Photo by Chris Fogle.

A surprising delight is Cory Estoll as Henslowe, the producer of Shakespeare’s yet-to-be written play. His clumsy, pathetic enthusiasm – exclaiming, “It’ll all be okay!” with a face that looks like it’s getting ready for a beating – is seriously hilarious. His obsession with making sure he delivers what he promised his sponsor, with lines such as “WHAT THE DOG?” sparked huge laughs because Estoll sells it without finding it amusing. That’s how you do it. Ironically, her optimism proves to be the show’s wisdom, despite her own desperate need to believe her own words. Estoll’s delivery never gets old.

Rivals Richard Burbage (Alex Hyder with some hilarious tantrums) and Ned Allen (the inimitable John Van Eck conjuring up the thoughts of John Barrymore as his character follows an arc from vanity to reluctant humility) chew this landscape with their fight scene (well choreographed by Bill Dunbar) and serve as braggarts who come together to work for the greater good: Shakespeare’s successful debut Romeo and Juliet.

As Lord Wessex, betrothed to the indifferent Viola, Thomas Schiller has a few good times as he loses his temper and yells at the other characters. His overall presence is a little awkward and it’s hard to believe his Wessex is a powerful and dangerous man. Although he’s miscast as Wessex, kudos to Schiller for throwing himself into the role with all he has and Hirsch for bringing out the best in his actors.

Other standout performances: Hamza Elnaggar as Edmund Tilney is brimming with angry energy and humorous body language, using his booming voice with dialectical precision. No small roles… Naomi Ratz as Nursie to Viola smothers audiences with lovable, matronly care and attention, foiling foils as she roots herself for her mistress to follow her heart. The youngest cast member, Shreyas Estoll, is a dynamo as John Webster, an aspiring Juliet with a lower-class accent and an “I told you so, bruh” attitude. It has chops and nails the comedic timing. Great find! The other cast members play between one and three roles, using their time between scenes to effortlessly perform scene changes. These ensemble actors play their part to the full, using the non-verbal energy to give the appearance of a full crowd.

Shakespeare in love had a weekend run and won’t return for two performances until the end of May (details below). Go to a ticket seller and take the time to see this delightful theatrical feat.

Duration: 2h10 plus a 15 minute intermission.

Shakespeare in love had a limited broadcast May 6-8, 2022, presented by Kentlands Community Players performing at the Gaithersburg Arts Barn, 311 Kent Square Road in Gaithersburg, MD, and will be performed again Memorial Day weekend May 28 at 8 p.m. p.m. and May 29 at 2 p.m. Tickets ($20) can be purchased here through Kentlands Community Actors.

COVID safety: With Montgomery County currently at the “low” community level as defined by the CDC, proof of vaccinations and masks will no longer be required at indoor performances at the Arts Barn beginning March 21, 2022. Staff and visitors can wear masks to themselves. discretion.


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