A postcard review of Morpheus Theatre’s Shakespeare in Love

In this postcard review, Caroline Russell-King takes a look at Morpheus Theatre’s Shakespeare in Love, running at the Pumphouse Theatres.

Show: Shakespeare in Love.

Playwright/composer: Adapted for the stage by Lee Hall with music by Paddy Cunneen, based on the screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard (and does it need to be said – with material from William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe ;-).

Production company/theatre space: Morpheus Theatre in the Victor Mitchell Theatre at the Pumphouse Theatres. 

Length: Two acts (140 mins., with intermission).

Genre/s: Romantic tragedy.

Premise: Shakespeare, who falls in love with the unattainable Viola, tries to overcome various social, political, and personal obstacles while attempting to write and stage his play.

Why this play? Why now?: Kudos to Sean Anderson for snatching the Calgary rights and premiering this play. I own three movies. This is one of them. I know every word. I’m the target market. I hope it does well.

Curiosities: I wondered if the women playing men playing women bit really works when the play is about these very issues, and these seem like unnecessary layers for the sake of political correctness (that being said I did enjoy Megan Baldrey’s Ned Alleyn very much).  I’m not sure why seasoned directors need Intimacy Choreographers for G-rated blocking. #MeToo seems to have spawned a cottage industry, it’s the times we live in. I know, I’m old, don’t send letters.

Notable lines: “I don’t know it’s a mystery” is the famous punch to snappy repartee. 

Notable writing: Tom Stoppard writing about Shakespeare … it doesn’t get any better.

Notable performances: Battling against comparisons to the original cast is really tough, but in this cast of 20 there are some lovely standouts. Notably, Nick Wensrich as John Webster hits every beat, Dorin McIntosh gets all his laughs, and Newton, the dog, upstages everyone, predictably.

Notable design/production: The “strap-on codpiece” is distracting, historically correct as it may be. The set design is curious with its un-utilized space downstage. The incessant furniture moving and drape pulling, in what I call the “brown-out shuffles,” splits focus and affects mood.

Notable direction: No stranger to Shakespeare, Iam Coulter, who is knowable and passionate about her subject matter, tackles a big cast with evident love and a bit with a dog. 

One reason to see this show: Stoppard. Shakespeare. (I know, that’s two!)

(Photo courtesy Morpheus Theatre.)

Shakespeare in Love runs at the Pumphouse Theatres until Feb. 9.

Caroline Russell-King is a playwright, dramaturg, and instructor. She is a member of The Playwrights Guild of Canada, the Dramatist Guild of America and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. You can find her work here