“Shakespeare in Love” at Shakespeare in the Park is Lovely
Oklahoma summers can be pretty brutal and lately it has been dangerously hot, yet when the sun goes down the night can be delightfully pleasant, with a warm breeze that cools, the soft noises of summer creatures and the heady scents of evenings in the garden under the moonlight. Add to that a wonderful story that brings the night home as if that story is your own and Oklahoma nights become wonderful beyond measure. The magic happens at Shakespeare in the Park, whether it be “Much Ado About Nothing” in June, or “Romeo & Juliet” coming in September or the current production of “Shakespeare in Love” August 10 through August 20, 2023.
The young cast is quite adept in creating believable characters representing a time past and bringing forward the universality that speaks to an audience of all ages. The outdoor presentation necessarily must cope with the pitfalls of combining technical believability in the natural environment, and this necessitates walking a fine line. The actors are able to do this with grace as well as skill making the outdoor performance a very big plus for the production.
“Shakespeare in Love” is based on a screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard that has been adapted for the stage by Lee Hall. The production is expertly directed by Tyler Woods with a cast of 15 talented performers including Hazel who has mastered the role of Spot. Woods also handles the Choreography for the fight scenes while Rebekah Valencia choreographs the dance. Stage Manager and Sound Engineer is Jenna Rowell and she is assisted by Ella Howard who is also the Dog Wrangler! Amanda Lee is the Music Director, Edward T. Morris, is in charge of scenic design while Lloyd Cracknell is costume design and Colin Mao is Properties. The lighting is from Stephen King and the entire crew of backstage experts works well to provide the actors with all that is needed to make a great show.
Will Shakespeare appears as a young man who has fallen in love with a proper young lady destined to make a more advantageous match. She is Viola de Lesseps and she has fallen in love with theatre, harboring a fantasy to perform on stage herself. Ultimately she falls for William Shakespeare, the playwright who is such an inspiration, as well as quite the charmer! Shakespeare is played by Joshua Murray with confidence and ease. The beautiful Viola is portrayed by Abigail Schmitz revealing a touch of flirt, a sprinkle of joy and exactly the right amount of easy skill. Justin Marlow is Lord Wessex, the man chosen for the young Viola. Wessex is a very domineering and egotistical, unrelentingly determined to control every aspect of Viola life.
While “Shakespeare in Love” is a work of fiction, the characterizations are based on what is known of the individuals. Elizabethan England was blessed with a extremely creative group of writers along with a Queen with excellent literary instincts. Fellow playwright Kit Marlowe is not as well known to modern audiences as Shakespeare but he was quite popular and impressive during the literary renaissance England enjoyed. Marlowe and Shakespeare are colleagues, competitors and sometimes conspirators. Marlowe is played with natural flamboyance by Joseph Mann. An interesting aspect of “Shakespeare in Love” is that it is set in the time that Shakespeare is Immersed in “Romeo and Juliet” creating some interesting overlaps. And, as Shakespeare is also falling in love while he is writing “Romeo and Juliet” parallels become evident and emotion is certainly heightened.
Queen Elizabeth I is an avid supporter of all the arts, but it seems as if she has a special connection to literary endeavors. Alix Golden plays her with stately magnificence. Additionally Golden is the Nurse as well as Molly and makes each role distinctive. Evan Wolfe is Henlowe, Paxton Kliewer is Ned Alleyn/Frees, and Jonathan Lynch is a multiplicity of roles. Dillon Rasberry is Hugh Fennyman and Tyler Malinauskas is Richard Burbage. S. M Boyer plays John Webster and Kate, Tyler Harrell has four different roles while Maurice Quintel Simmons is Robin Nol and Dr. Lesseps as well as a Guard, and Karam Alkhatib is Ralph. And, of course, Hazel steals the show as Spot, These performers develop the ensemble nature of a small cast within the larger group and provide important support for the majors while at the same time creating interesting characterizations of their own.
Viola is convinced that she must do the right thing and the plans for her nuptials with the dastardly Wessex move forward at an alarming pace. Kit Marlowe gets into a brawl and is feared dead. Queen Elizabeth reveals her interest in literary endeavors extends to an interest in canine performers. These various subplots are capitalized on by the performers thanks to the deft applications of character development from director Tyler Woods.
For tickets and information visit www.okshakes.org or call the box office at 405-235-3700. “Shakespeare in Love” plays August 10 through August 20 at the 2920 Paseo in the quaint Paseo district of uptown Oklahoma City. At the beginning of every Shakespeare in the Park production we are encouraged to ‘Prepare Ye for a Lark’ and that is certainly the case with “Shakespeare in Love.” Looking around at some of the patrons, it is clear that this is a great show for lovers—full of drama, yes, but also full of fun.