Love and Tragedy and the Bit with the Dog

If you missed the hit movie “Shakespeare in Love” that brought about a resurgence of Elizabethan movies that we are still enjoying (or suffering through, depending on if you caught “Mary Queen of Scots”), Shakespeare Dallas’ clever and pacey production of Lee Hall’s adaptation runs through Sunday, July 21 at Samuell-Grand Amphitheatre at 6200 E. Grand Ave.

Both a celebration of William Shakespeare and an accessible play for audience members unfamiliar with his works, the play revolves around a young William Shakespeare (Montgomery Sutton) in 1590 where the plague, Puritans and the Lord Chamberlain are all trying to shut down London theaters, and writer’s block caused by lack of love in Will’s life has stopped him from being able to recapture his early success and eke out a living. His muse appears in the fortuitous appearance of the Lady Viola De Lesseps (Stephanie Oustalet) at a casting disguised as a man in order to skirt the rules forbidding women on the stage and perform in Will’s new play “Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter.”

The play hums along with a great mix of “inside-Shakespeare” and “inside-theater” jokes, but also cleverly delivers a comedy-cum-tragedy that ties neatly into Will’s renamed play “Romeo and Juliet.” Because of the amount of characters (22 actors in the cast, some playing multiple roles), many characters are there to move the plot along and only a few get a significant amount of lines. While Will and Viola (Stephanie Outstalet) get plenty of stage time, some of the other actors are only seen a few times to move the story along.

Matthew Allen Holmes plays the dashing writer Kit Marlowe with wit and elan. His character shows Will’s hopelessness in the early part of the play. Stephanie Outstalet plays a driven, intense Viola — both in her love of Will, her desire to become an actor and her dislike for Wessex. While this isn’t necessarily a poor choice in terms of character development, I wonder how much this tone was affected by her microphone going out frequently, forcing her to be more forceful in projecting her voice and “larger” in terms of stage presence. Sam McCalla finds just the right midpoint between misogynist creep and comedic fool in his portrayal of Lord Wessex, Viola’s betrothed. Steven Young as Burbage and Jeremiah Johnson as Ned Allyn are both charmingly entertaining as their characters compete for dominance on the stage. This is the first time I’ve seen Mr. Johnson cast in this kind of role, and it fit him like a glove.

The costume design by Rhonda R. Gorman was well executed and helped immerse us in Elizabethan London and the efficiency of Eric Barker’s set design helped keep the play’s pace lively while still allowing for clear delineation between locales.

As you may have heard elsewhere, “The course of true love never did run smooth,” and we don’t get a happy ending in the play, but what a lovely expression of the joys and sorrows that come from creating art and experiencing love.

[ This review originally appeared at The Katy Trail Weekly]

Originally published at on June 29, 2019.



Above average dancer.

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