Though William Shakespeare's plays have cemented his status in the Western literary canon, his life is a bit of a cypher. There's no shortage of speculation on his biography, ranging from the driest scholastic tomes to the occasional blockbuster movie. If you want a thoughtful and plausible examination of Shakespeare's life, keep looking. Her Majesty's Will, now playing at Lifeline Theatre, is simply good fun, as broad and goofy as the pun in the title.
When pastoral schoolteacher Will Shakespeare (Javier Ferreira) impulsively comes to the aid of a damsel in distress, he finds that she is more than she seems, and Shakespeare is soon swept up in a madcap adventure at the side of the young Christopher "Kit" Marlowe (Bryan Bosque), a spy in the service of the Throne. Will and Kit fight and flirt their way in and out of trouble, stumbling onto the Babington Plot and quite possibly saving England in the process.
The play, adapted by Robert Kauzlaric from the book of the same name by David Blixt (who also serves as fight director for the production), is well-researched and displays a clear love of the subject matter. Devoted fans of the Bard will find plenty of winking references to his works, and lovers of Elizabethan times will delight in the lively characters drawn from history, including the hedonistic scholar Robert Greene (a raucous Peter Greenberg), Helena of Snakenborg, Marchioness of Northampton (played with stoic regality by Heather Chrisler), and a very funny appearance by Dick Tarlton (Dan Cobbler), the famous clown beloved by Queen Elizabeth I. Dressed in rich period Elizabethan costume by Aly Renee Amidei, the energetic ensemble serves double and often triple duty as players, priests, spies, and street toughs, creating a full and vibrant world for the protagonists to pratfall through.
Ferreira and Bosque make a great comic duo. Though Shakespeare and Marlowe get more intimate than Hope and Crosby ever did, they share a similar on-the-road patter. Bosque especially excels in fight scenes and chase sequences, throwing himself around the stage with seemingly endless energy, like an impish Bugs Bunny. Ferreira is a bit more grounded as Shakespeare; deftly playing the transition from overwhelmed Stratford bumpkin to the wily man whose work would change English culture forever.
Chris Hainsworth's buoyant direction has its actors leaping and crawling up, down, through, and over Eleanor Kahn's deceptively simple set. The bare Elizabethan stairs and walkways provide a perfect jungle gym for farcical chase scenes and exhilarating brawls, crafted with aplomb by Blixt.
Her Majesty's Will is a bawdy, swashbuckling confection where the bad guys are terribly bad and the good guys will stop at nothing to protect Queen and country. It puts on no airs of presenting the likely facts of Shakespeare's lost years, preferring instead to imagine the most fabulous scenario possible. Given a choice between the truth and this delightful fable, audience members can't go wrong seeing Her Majesty's Will.
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