Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Beard of Avon

From: "will stackman"

Subject: Quicktake - "The Beard of Avon" by Amy Freed

Date: Wed, July 5, 11:25 PM

Quicktake on THE BeARD OF AVON

     Amy Freed's comedy "The Beard of Avon" is a somewhat show-biz take on the "authorship" question which has engaged some Shakespeare scholars--and not a few crackpots--over the years. Originally commissioned by L.A.'s South Coast Rep in 2001, this racy contemporary farce set in Elizabethan England, plays with the Bard's life and language. Its clever conclusions may offend some of the Oxfordians and will certainly set local Stratfordians quibbling. The rest of the audience gets a good laugh at it all, aided Diego Arciniegas' well-paced direction.

    The central characters are Edward DeVere, the dissolute Earl of Oxford, played by local stalwart Bill Mootos, and Will Shakspere(sic) played by Gabriel Kuttner, last seen in Sugan's "Talking to Terrorists." Publick Theatre regular Eric Hamel plays Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton in a Oscar/Bosey relationship to Devere, while Will is attached to a put-upon Anne Hathaway played by versatile Helen McElwain. The complications which ensue are a mix of period and modern comedy, with plenty of innuendo. The action includes Queen Elizabeth, played in high style by M. Lynda Robinson and the members of the vagabond company Will runs off with. Richard Arum plays John Heminge and Gerald Slattery is Henry Condol, the two actors named in Shakespeare's last will and testament. Ellen Adair has great fun playing Geoffrey Dunderhead, the boy who plays female roles, while Risher Reddick is a blustering Richard Burbage. Barry Press, new to the Publick, who will play Neils Bohr in their "Copenhagen" which opens later in the month, gets to be Old Colin, a Stratford friend of the Shakspere's, Lord Derby, and Walter Fitch, a mistreated playwright. Others in the acting company double as members of the Court; Bacon, Walsingham, Burleigh, and Lady Lettice as well.

     Emerson's Rafael Jaen has provided first class period costumes with contemporary touches--Devere is in leather and McElwain gets to show quite a bit of leg. The stage has been further upgraded and allows Judy Stacier from Tufts to create a variety of environs, well lit by production manager Anthony Phelps, once the sun goes down. Steven Barkhimer has contributed an original score which suggests the period. The ensemble manages to be convincingly Elizabethan while playing in contemporary form. Freed's script doesn't really contribute that much to the "question" but it does raise interesting issues of inspiration. Given the choice between exploring an idea and pulling a gag, "The Beard of Avon"'s more liable to go for the laugh, which results in a pleasant entertainment with a few thoughtful moments.

"The Beard of Avon" by Amy Freed, June 29 - Sept. 3

Publick Theatre at Herter Park

Soldiers Field Rd., Brighton (617) 782 - 5425
Publick Theatre


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