Shakespeare's Will: Dull script shortchanges character
Cathy Fuller as Anne Hathaway.
Photo by Michal Daniel
There is only one performer on stage in Shakespeare's Will, and one character that looms over the show. It isn't the one Cathy Fuller plays.
Vern Thiessen's play examines the life of Anne Hathaway, the almost-unknown wife of the Bard. It is her story we hear, told on the evening of Shakespeare's funeral. Yet her husband's absence stretches far before his death. Shakespeare has been largely absent since they were married, plying his trade in London while Anne made a home in Stratford.
The problem is that Thiessen doesn't give us a character with enough oomph to carry even this rather short (about an hour) one-act play. Fuller tries to imbue the character with as much life as she can, but the script cuts her off at every turn.
Over the course of the hour, the character shares her history with and without Shakespeare, talking about how her father initially reacted to the news ("Jesus Christ" seemed to be his favorite expression), the birth of each of their children, and the long years spent apart from each other.
There are moments when the often dull biography gains life. The sea repeats several times as a theme, and provides for the harrowing death of son Hamnet. In these moments, the show takes off into a tantalizing direction.
Those moments don't carry the night, however. While Fuller and director Bain Boehlke have collaborated to create a nuanced character, the staging is static. It could have been presented as a radio play without losing much impact.
That doesn't mean the production doesn't look great. The set, costume, sound, and lighting team gives us, as always at the Jungle, a fully realized atmosphere for the play. It's just a shame that there isn't enough in this story to carry all of the weight.
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