Monday, March 3, 2014

Reviewed in Brief: "Shakespeare's Will"

Sometimes, all it takes is a first impression. 

Photo courtesy of the Jungle Theater.
Shakespeare's Will is gorgeous from the start, with a starkly different set than one often sees at the Jungle. Spare, sparse, and periodically accurate, it provides a perfectly inconspicuous backdrop to direct the audience's full attention toward Cathleen Fuller, whose engaging personification of the independent medieval woman's life struggle directs the entire show. 

Maybe I should back up: Shakespeare's Will isn't actually about Shakespeare at all. Instead, it is grounded and narrated entirely by his wife Anne Hathaway (Fuller), who (as is widely accepted) Shakespeare left abandoned in their hometown of Stratford in order to seek fame and fortune in London. In the show, Shakespeare has died not long ago and left a will, which Hathaway refuses to read, instead telling the complicated story of their life together.

Fuller is fully up to the task of embodying an independent, strong portrayal of Hathaway, luring the audience into her scintillating Stratford life with darkly comic and suggestive asides. According to this Hathaway, neither Shakespeare was an innocent, neither happy, but both lead the fullest, most independent lives they could afford at the time - and the life Fuller breathes into it is a strong demonstration of her acting prowess.

Hathaway's strength makes her utterly likeable, and the subsequent disappointing revelation we find at the end, inside Shakespeare's will, is infuriating. At a clippy 90 minutes or so, the show is well worth a quick side trip and is another fascinating guesstimation of the life of one of the most storied men - and more importantly, his wife - in history. More information about the show and the Jungle's season can be found by clicking this link.