Shakespeare in Love On Stage at 2nd Space

Jan 16, 2023 | 2023 Articles, Terrance V. Mc Arthur, Theatre

by Terrance Mc Arthur

For decades, writers have made up tales of William Shakespeare having affairs that inspired his great plays. In 1998, Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard’s script became the film Shakespeare in Love starred Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes, with Geoffrey Rush and Judy Dench. In 2014, Lee Hall adapted the film script for the stage. Now, you can see Shakespeare in Love performed live at the Good Company Players’ 2nd Space Theatre through February 19, and you can fall in love with it, too.

Cast of GCP’s production of “Shakespeare in Love”

William Shakespeare (Augustin Chapa) is trying to write a new comedy, Romeo and Ethel, The Pirate’s Daughter, for Henslow (Mark Standriff) and his theatre, but he has also promised it to Richard Burbage (Alex Vaux). Stymied by writer’s block, he gets help from Marlowe (Xavier Gonzalez), another playwright. Viola De Lesseps (Jessica Rose Knotts), daughter of a rich merchant, wants to be an actor, but women are not allowed on the stage in 1593 England by law. Viola dresses as a young man and auditions, is cast in the play, she and the playwright fall in love, and the play becomes Romeo and Juliet.

Knotts is tall, slender, ethereal, and any other positive qualities you wish to name as the theatre-smitten lady who inspires the playwright. She moves smoothly, speaks clearly, and I never noticed how much she resembles Gwyneth Paltrow, before. It’s a joy to watch and listen to her.

Cast of GCP’s production of “Shakespeare in Love”

Chapa, as Shakespeare, is clever, nimble (except when clumsy is the comic goal), and he has amazing hair. The frustrated playwright, the smitten lover, the troubled man facing dilemma after dilemma—he plays all those characters in one in a short evening.

Gonzalez is a bright spot in any part he plays, and Marlowe becomes a man of the age in his hands—confident, accomplished, supportive, doomed (if you know your history).

Cast of GCP’s production of “Shakespeare in Love”

Danny Cameron is Wessex, an impoverished nobleman with plans to marry Viola. Cameron comes off as slimy, entitled, vindictive, and a totally unsuitable husband. It takes a good performer to be that evil. Zachary Taylor brings another kind of evil as a jealous actor who finds a way to cause trouble for the theatre company. Juan Carlos Munoz plays Tilney, a censor of the time, who sees the theatre as a den of sin, with malicious glee.

Benjamin Geddert commands the stage as a player/stage director with a wicked grin. Even more commanding, Sally Tay Howe is Queen Elizabeth I, a regal patron of the theatre, and a pretty good “deus ex machina,” solving problems and restoring order to her kingdom.

Stache Maldonado is a dog, and he plays the part of a dog very well.

Cast of GCP’s production of “Shakespeare in Love”

David Pierce’s set transports us back to Elizabethan times, with half-timbered buildings and a sturdy balcony. Ginger Kay Lewis Reed’s costumes are, by turns, sumptuous and grubby, suiting the characters. As director, Laurie Pessano manages to create cinematic effects on the stage, as players go from a theatre’s backstage to facing an imaginary audience in the wink of an eye. Pessano also handles steamy love scenes in a tasteful manner that brings the film’s R rating to a PG-13 level.

The script is loaded with “Easter eggs,” little touches that slyly refer to Shakespearean characters, plays, famous lines, and plot devices. There is comedy, tragedy, romance, and creates a world of the past that resonates in the present. Even if you have never seen the movie, this is a show to see and love.

Shakespeare in Love is on stage through February 19. The 2nd Space Theatre is at 928 E. Olive Ave, in Fresno. For tickets and further information, contact www.gcplayers.com, or call (559) 266-9494.

If you love local theatre, be sure to check out Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. You can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, and also on podbean.

Check out more theatre reviews & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section. You can also find more theatre coming up on KRL’s Local Theatre event page.

Terrance V. Mc Arthur worked for the Fresno County Public Library for three decades. He is retired, but not retiring. A storyteller, puppeteer, writer, actor, magician, basketmaker, and all-around interesting person, his goal is to make life more unusual for everyone he meets.

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