Ashland Theater Review: Shakespeare in Love

Mar 28, 2017

Viola (Jamie Ann Romero) with Shakespeare (William DeMeritt)
Credit Photo by Jenny Graham

If you wake up each morning worried about the world, relief is available at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. “Shakespeare in Love,” a stage adaptation of the award-winning 1998 film, will dazzle you with raucous wit, inspired bedlam, pleasing music and sumptuous costumes.

Director Christopher Liam Moore brilliantly guides a large, stellar cast through two and a half hours of hilarity. Moore calls the play a love letter to theatre, and it certainly is.

In the beginning Shakespeare is stumped. He’s trying to write a comedy called “Romeo and Ethel the Pirate’s Daughter,” but he has writer’s block. His friendly competitor, Christopher Marlowe, feeds him ideas, and he begins to find inspiration when he meets a beautiful lady.

After many rapid-fire complications, his script gradually evolves into a tragedy, the “Romeo and Juliet” loved to this day for its peerless poetry and high drama. Even Queen Elizabeth is supportive of Shakespeare’s new work, although she’d really prefer a comedy with a dog.

Lucky for us, “Shakespeare in Love” features the best dog performer I’ve ever seen. A dog with comic timing!

This stage version, adapted by Lee Hall from the screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard, expands the friendship between Shakespeare and Marlowe, and includes excerpts from “Romeo and Juliet,” enchantingly performed on an airy set that affords a balcony and a curved staircase.

William DeMeritt creates an irresistible Shakespeare and Ted Deasy is a dashing Marlowe. Jamie Ann Romero is the fascinating lady who secretly infiltrates the all-male acting company. K.T. Vogt plays a nurse who inspires the character of Juliet’s nurse.

We delight in seeing how Shakespeare might have used incidents from his life in creating his works.

This show seems tailor-made for OSF, and tickets will sell fast. 

Queen Elizabeth (Kate Mulligan) and Viola (Jamie Ann Romero)