The stakes were high as I wandered into Baltimore Center Stage’s Press Night performance of “Shakespeare in Love” last Thursday. The show, after all, is based on the 1998 film of the same name, which just so happens to be one of my favorite movies of all time. And while I must say that I still prefer the film, Center Stage’s live show was surely a more-than-enjoyable way to spend an evening.
For those that haven’t seen the movie, the story centers on a young Shakespeare (a handsome, mega-macho Nicholas Carriere, in this production), still playing second fiddle to fellow playwright Christopher Marlowe (well-cast Avery Glymph) and besieged with writer’s block—that is, until he meets the woman that changes everything. At a casting for his newest work, which hilariously varies in title from “Ethel the Pirate King’s Daughter” to “Romeo and Ethel” to simply “Romeo,” Shakespeare is impressed by a young actor and insists he play the role of Romeo—not knowing that the man is no man at all, but a beautiful woman named Viola (Emily Trask). Their ensuing love story (and, naturally, hijinks aplenty) reignites Shakespeare’s creative spark, culminating in the completion of his first great tragedy, “Romeo and Juliet.”
Though the show’s quicker pacing makes the romance a little less believable than its on-screen counterpart, there are certainly shining moments. The friendship between Shakespeare and Marlowe, though a secondary plot point, shines; the moveable wooden set is a masterpiece; and there’s just no escaping the appeal of the Bard’s unmatched command of language, which could withstand any adaptation. The supporting actors, too, are a fun bunch, with undeniable presence even when the main characters are center stage. And this review wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Meatball, a very unwilling Chihuahua who seemed quite unhappy on stage, but looked almost too adorable in his Elizabethan ruff.
In short, though “Shakespeare in Love” is a not on par with its Oscar-winning predecessor, it’s still a delightful rom-com of a play and a wonderful way to spend an evening. Get to the theater anon!
Oct. 19-Nov. 26 at Baltimore Center Stage.