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'Shakespeare in Love' adapted by Lee Hall from the screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard

Now onstage at the Scarborough Village Theatre, 3600 Kingston Road, Scarborough

Credit: Brian Whitmore Pictured: Jeff Grujicich and Misha Harding

Joe Szekeres

“Commitment to the moment by each of the 28-member cast is one of the highlights of ‘Shakespeare in Love. The production is directed with painstaking care by Meg Gibson.”

It’s London, 1593. The young Will Shakespeare (Jeff Grujicich) needs a hit play. He has writer’s block and needs inspiration to keep himself focused. Will has written ‘Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter’ much to the chagrin of his theatre colleagues. He discovers his muse to keep writing in the beautiful Viola De Lesseps (Misha Harding). She wishes to become an actor but understands women are not allowed on the stage, so she disguises herself in drag as Thomas Kent. ‘Kent’ comes to audition for the Pirate’s Daughter play that is causing Will great grief.

Christopher Marlowe (Holm Bradwell), a good friend of Will, accompanies him to find Kent to let him know he has been cast as Romeo. Trouble occurs when Will and Viola fall in love at a ball given by Viola’s father (Stephen Flett), announcing his approval of his daughter's engagement to Lord Wessex (Stephen Martin), Viola’s fiancé. Wessex wants to marry her quickly to ensure he will receive the family fortune. Wessex also intends to cart Viola off to a Virginian plantation.

The scene resembles the first meeting of the star-crossed lovers in ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ Wessex gets highly jealous of the attention Will pays to Viola. When Wessex asks for Will’s name, he uses Marlowe’s.

From this point on, the story becomes comically and absurdly oriented. But aren’t all love stories just that? At times, there are moments of who’s who with mistaken identities. Other times, ‘Shakespeare in Love’ becomes a romantic love story mixed in with the sadness that love can sometimes bring.

I saw the film version many, many years ago. It was quite a feast for the eyes then. The theatre setting was astounding, as were the sumptuous costumes. ‘Shakespeare’ was on the live stage at Stratford several years ago where the festival could meet the professional demands required to produce this behemoth of a show.

Could a community theatre group pull off that same technique visually?

I’m delighted that The Scarborough Players have created an enjoyable evening at the theatre. The company bills itself as ‘Good Stories. Well told.’ That’s quite a testament.

This opening night production is evidence of a good story and is well told.

What is most profound is the technical work behind the scenes to ensure the 28-member cast looks and sounds great on stage, from Fight Choreographer/ Captain Mercedes Davy and Jonathan Bell to the multitude of props and their coordination by Carol Kim and Jamie Darker.

The use of the minstrels is an absolute delight to watch and to hear.

Anthony Jones’ set design, combined with Costume Squad Lead Katherine Turner's, has created a visual feast for the eyes. The sturdiness of the two-level theatre set is quite impressive. Turner and her costume squad team created realistic clothing in 1593 in London, England, in various fabrics, colours, and textures. For example, the gown worn by Paula Wilkie as Queen Elizabeth I is extraordinary, as is Kaylee Oak's hair and makeup design.

One thing that I will always comment on in any stage production, whether community or professional, is the audibility of the actors. Can they be consistently heard? If that is a problem, I am prepared to call it out.
No problem there at all. The actors’ pronunciation and enunciation are very good for clarity.

Under Meg Gibson’s solid direction, the 28-member cast is to be congratulated heartily for a production rehearsed with painstaking care for the subject material and the period piece setting. In her blocking of individual scenes, Gibson ensures the stage never appears overcrowded at any given time. The sightlines are excellent. Although it is a long show, the story trips along at an acceptable pace. Pay close attention as a great deal of information is given.

As the story's focal points, Jeff Grujicich and Misha Harding are terrific as Will and Viola. They remain committed to the moment (as the entire company does) and use humour, comedy, pathos, and dramatic intensity to underscore selected moments finely. For instance, when Will and Viola meet for the first time, Marlowe coaches the young man on what to say to the young heroine on the balcony. Grujicich and Harding listen attentively and eagerly to each other, which makes that moment highly enjoyable from the audience seating area.

One Final Thought: I believe ‘Shakespeare in Love’ was to have been staged earlier in 2020, but we all know what happened then.

Good things come to those who wait.

This ‘Shakespeare in Love’ is a good thing.

So make sure you see it.

Running time: approximately two hours and 30 minutes with one interval/intermission.

‘Shakespeare in Love’ runs until June 22 at the Scarborough Village Theatre, 3600 Kingston Road. For tickets: https://app.arts-people.com/index.php?ticketing=tscar or call the Box Office (416) 267-9262.

Scarborough Players presents
SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE Adapted by Lee Hall from the screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard
Produced by David Rudat
Directed by Meg Gibson

Click here: https://theatrescarborough.com/scarborough-players/productions/shakespeare-in-love/ to see the names of the cast members.

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