“Shakespeare in Love” begins with William Shakespeare (Ryan Feist) performing a soliloquy about his struggle as a writer in his day. The powerful element I drew from Shakespeare in Love is how each character hides themselves in one way or another and yet despite the tragedy at the end, they embrace who they are.
Queen Elizabeth (Lindsey Oetken) plays a strong role in accomplishing this. She mirrors Shakespeare in the sense that her world must revolve around her for her kingdom to run, just like Shakespeare must maintain his reputation for his theatre to thrive. Despite that she maintains a quiet sophisticated voice in her appearances, Queen Elizabeth’s mannerisms nonverbally command every character’s respect. She also possesses a humor that borderlines cruelty but from watching her, the audience can tell she has an equally witty and romantic side.
The problem for Shakespeare in his pursuit to operate his theatre is that he relies on Marlowe Kit (Mack Spotts) for most of his ideas rather than being comfortable in his own writing process. Throughout the play, Marlowe will make an observation as to what might make a good show and Shakespeare responds with the same passionate exuberance as when he jots down the idea. Meanwhile for Queen Elizabeth, everything revolves around making her happy and she controls the destiny of the others, especially for Shakespeare and Viola (Chloe Sirbu).
Viola is a young woman who aspires to be in the theatre world but is confined within time and social limits during the time of Shakespeare. While she is confident in her abilities as an actress, women from that time are forbidden to perform onstage. Her confidence increases after she discovers who Shakespeare is and she falls in love with him. In the first few scenes, she plays opposite a male character other than Shakespeare who is directing the show and must kiss him. Only until she kisses Shakespeare, is Shakespeare satisfied with the passion she expresses for him. He begins to wake up to his desire for her too but does not realize it since Viola disguises as a man in order to be admitted as a performer and to play the Romeo character.
The nurse is quite comical in her surprised reaction in finding out about Viola’s involvement with Shakespeare. She wants to see Viola happy so she protects Viola whenever her jealous seeker comes around. The heart of the play is that her beau, Benvolio (Talon Krummel Walter) does not desire her for even her beauty but for her father’s money that will come with her once they are married. The whole irony in the meanwhile is that Viola falls in love with the poor poet Shakespeare who feeds her soul and at the same time he is feeding hers. The situational comedy is rehearsed after Shakespeare disguises as Viola’s nurse when Benvolio nearly discovers the couple’s involvement.
Even if you aren’t too familiar with Shakespeare, I highly recommend that if you are free to attend the play, you should. It combines comedy, action, tears—all the ingredients necessary for baking a treat that will enchant your heart and your brain. You still have a couple chances left to see the play, from today to Saturday at 7:30 p.m. or Nov. 9-10, with showings available at 2 p.m.
Header photo courtesy of the Department of Theatre.