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KLCC Theater Review: Born with Teeth

Alex Purcell and Bradly James Tejada in Born with Teeth
Jenny Graham
Alex Purcell and Bradly James Tejada in Born with Teeth 

What’s the next best thing to a play by Shakespeare? Sometimes it’s a play about Shakespeare. And why not bring in Christopher Marlowe for good measure? Place these two young men in the back room of a London tavern and tell them to co-author a play about Henry VI.

That’s what author Liz Duffy Adams did, to the great amusement of the audiences at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Born with Teeth, her witty two-person comedy briskly directed by Rob Melrose, pits Will and Kit, the nickname for Christopher, against each other as extremely competitive playwrights vying for patronage. Don’t take this play as history. The facts aren’t well known, and Adams uses her imagination, just as Shakespeare did with his history plays.

Although roughly the same age, Marlowe is more advanced in his career, while Will is still learning the ropes. Alex Purcell as Kit and Bradley James Tejada as Will are not just hot; they’re magnetic.

Even so, they are very different. Will married young and he’s concerned about supporting his wife and children in Stratford. Kit is probably a spy for the Queen. It’s not likely he’ll reach old age. He’s dangerous, unpredictable and works better when drunk. He sadistically berates Will for his grammar school education, while boasting of his advanced studies at Cambridge. Nevertheless, they may be falling in love. And with his grammar school Latin, Greek and rhetoric, Will is Kit’s intellectual equal.Their dialogue is devilishly clever and fun.

The whole play happens fast, in a violent London where punishment is grotesque. It’s dog eat dog, even if you love the dog.

Dorothy Velasco has reviewed productions at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for KLCC since 1985.