Those who are familiar with Pennsylvania Shakespeare have already experienced the magic of Shakespearean plays shaped by the team of Matt Pfeiffer (Director) and Alex Bechtel (Music Director/Composer). They make the works of the Bard richer and clearer. It is only mete that they bring their skills to the story crafted by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard’s in the movie Shakespeare in Love. It has been cleverly adapted for the stage by Lee Hall and given the benefit of the quality production values consistently proffered by People’s Light.
Shakespeare in Love is a charming homage to both the life of William Shakespeare and in a way to the craft of creating theater. The story tells the apocryphal story of how the play Romeo and Juliet had its roots in the experiences of Shakespeare and his doomed love for Viola de Lesseps, a woman so in love with the theater that she dresses up as a man just to be an actor. Many of Shakespeare’s familiar tropes are used to tell this love story, and Pfeiffer and his cast makes sure the audience appreciates each one.
This stellar cast is led by Jaime Maseda as the playwright/poet who has misplaced his gift. Additionally, we gain an insight into how theaters operated in the Elizabethan Age while we also receive a glimpse of some of the roadblocks that face all professional theater folks (funding, facilities and talent etc.) His love interest is Viola de Lesseps played with both charm and energy by a comely Taysha Marie Canales. These star-crossed lovers do provide a great chemistry on stage.
The play is inhabited with other familiar characters in Shakespeare’s storied life. Playwright/poet Christopher (Kit) Marlowe is rendered with smarmy intelligence by Maboud Ebrahimzadeh. Viola’s nurse, a model for the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet is played with comic charm by Mary Elizabeth Scallen. The role of Queen Elizabeth I is acted with great fun and style by Melanie Finister. The cast nearly all play more than one role, and they do so with great energy and purpose. They are all on the same page and offer their great talents to the unified whole. Every actor has their moment to shine.
As mentioned before the music is a big part of the production. Alex Bechtel’s original music is handled well by a stringed trio including violin, cello and piano. It creates an Elizabethan ambiance. He has added several songs performed with melodic reverence by Pax Ressler.
The production team provides an appropriate playground for Pfeiffer and the cast to play. Paige Hathaway’s set which is both rustic and ornate suggests a Shakespearean stage while providing easy access for efficient scene changes. Lily Fossner’s lighting is a perfect complement for the set, and Olivera Gajic’s costumes evoke Elizabethan players as well as facilitate the fast changes in the show. Erin Sheffield’s choreography is small, yet lovely and Eli Lynn’s fight and intimacy choreography contributes greatly to the production.
Shakespeare in Love runs until March 29th at Peoples Light in Malvern. It is a lovely production and offers the audience not only a well told story, but also a glimpse into the process of creating theater then and now. For information call the Box Office at 610-644-3500 or check their website www.peopleslight.org.