On Friday, Feb. 15, UNCG premiered the long-awaited and beloved play “Shakespeare In Love.” The play is a fictional tale about William Shakespeare and a young woman named Viola de Lesseps who poses as a man in order to star in one of the writer’s plays. In this play, the fictional counterpart-like character Shakespeare ends up finding his muse, as well as falling in love, with this high aristocratic-born woman.
On opening night, to say that the theater was packed was an understatement. Students and visitors alike filled the seats to the brim, all waiting in anticipation for a tale of love so close to Valentine’s Day.
The play was written by Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman, the screenplay writers for the cinematic film “Shakespeare in Love,” which was originally released to theatres in 1998, and starred Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes. It was then adapted for the UNCG stage by Lee Hall, and directed by John Gulley of Taylor Theatre.
Similar to the film, the play is set in London in 1593, where the fictional Shakespeare himself is trying to finish a play titled “Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter,” with very little success due to writer’s block. He receives advice from his rival playwright, Christopher “Kit” Marlowe, who was in real life one of his biggest rivals of the time.
Meanwhile, the noblewoman Viola who has seen Shakespeare’s plays at court decides to audition for the part of Romeo disguised as a man by the name of “Thomas Kent.” Viola’s performance when auditioning with the speech from “Two Gentlemen from Verona” ends up captivating the young Shakespeare, but when he questions Viola on the decision to audition with that specific monologue in mind, she flees.
When Shakespeare goes after who he thinks is “Thomas Kent,” he arrives at the Lesseps’ home where he sets his sights on Viola and finds himself speechless after he shares a brief dance with the noblewoman.
It is after this moment that the two of them begin to fall in love with one another, eventually igniting a forbidden relationship between the two. This relationship seems to be the inspiration that Shakespeare needs to finish his play that he has been working on throughout the story. This play would end up becoming one of his most famous tragedies known today as “Romeo and Juliet.”
The performance was filled with laughter, romance, action and drama all rolled into one. The actors brought life to these counterpart-like characters with their own spin. Lead actor Tommy Crosson, who stars as the English playwright and poet William Shakespeare, delivers an accurate portrayal of what many would imagine the famous playwright to have been like during this time.
Crosson’s performance shows Shakespeare as an ambitious, as well as passionate, playwright that longs to see his work leave a mark on the world.
If you haven’t had a chance to see “Shakespeare in Love” starring Tommy Crosson as the playwright William Shakespeare, Aaron Botts as Shakespeare’s rival playwright, Christopher “Kit” Marlowe and Madeline Saintsing as the passionate Viola de Lesseps, there is still a chance to see the production. The play will continue to show at the Taylor Theatre from Thursday, Feb. 21 through to Saturday Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased online, over phone or at the Taylor Theatre box office.