Sunday, May 14, 2023

THE BOOK OF WILL / A Noise Within Pasadena

Lauren Gunderson.
's "The Book of Will" at A Noise Within in Pasadena imagines a time that seems incredible to me. Fact is that this production shines almost like no other I've ever seen at the Pasadena venue.  The pristine space, the magnificent set by Frederica Nascimento; enhanced by Ken Booth's lights that almost become another character, make for a standing O for co-directors Geoff Elliott and  Julia Rodriguez-Elliott.  Simply put, it's a wonderful production.  Geoff has again cast himself in a lead, Business Manager of The King's Men, John Heminges. At counterpoint,  Jeremy Rabb plays the less practical  actor Henry Condell.   Heminges, the former actor, out of necessity has become the  company manager of the King's Men. He plays  antagonist to the idea (at first)  to save Shakespeare's ouevre.

From time to time I note that these reviews are about not only the production on the stage, but my entire experience.  During the first act of the play I wondered what the tiny crackling sound was that seemed to be coming from directly behind me? At the interval, I watched a young woman  folding what may have been miniature paper cranes.  Thankfully, crinkling origami did not ruin the performance  nor the beautifully staged choreography as the entire cast sets to: moving props and furniture  to and fro and all around "..this wooden O..."  And!? At the reception,  I served, former exectutive director of the National Repertory Theatre Foundation, Raul Espinoza, a little dumpling!! 

It's been  three years since the Shakespeare's death in 1616, Burbage (excellent Frederick Stuart) and Shakespeare's pals sit drinking in the Globe Tap House: watering hole for The King's Men. These are the actors who within them  reside every shade of Hamlet & Lear; Lady Macbeth & Juliet. Actors!

How the plays of William Shakespeare may have been collected and  saved from oblivion by true love tells the tale.  For scholars, jokes about Pericles abound. I had to look Pericles up.  Yikes!

In Jack Grapes's "Circle of Will" (1989) we examine a roundabout conundrum.  Will and his pal, Christopher Marlowe play an existential  motif.  Gunderson's "The Book of Will" is more practical. Where are the scripts?.. Some of them  are only in the memories of the actors who actually acted in the plays!  Who owns the rights to publish and to perform?? A folio?

Burbage, The Master Thespian, is ready to throttle the 'Boy Hamlet' (Kelvin Morales also rocking the clown:  Marcus!) who opens the show with an embarrassing recitation that will set on edge the teeth of any patrons even vaguely familiar with  Hamlet.  Ouch.. The now exuberant Burbage elevates the tavern with his rendition of To Be.. and Richard III and other familiar characters to spontaneous applause. 

Outstanding Kacey Mahaffy as Crane .. at first dismissed as a simple scribe, turns out to have the project well in hand, literally! showing up with pieces of almost all of the plays that must be preserved. "Love's Labors Lost" however, is lost. Paper is everywhere! Imagining scribes like Crane who hand copied oceans of text is overwhelming, let alone the task of setting into type the copious lines we have come to love these four hundred years later. 

Kelvin Morales, Jeremy Rabb, Geoff Elliott
Photo by Craig Schwartz
Almost everyone plays more than one character.  The women are all excellent.  Deborah Strang steadfast  as Rebecca, the wife of Hemenges (later Anne Hathaway).   Elegant Trish Miller plays Emilia Bassano Lanier (The Dark Lady and former lover of The Bard.)  

Dialed up to Eleven.. as maybe, he ought to be, new to the cast, Alex Morris as Ben Jonson: impatient, bombastic, drunken  Poet Laureate of England,  makes sure that he is heard!  

Angela Balogh Calin's gorgeous costumes  are.. well.. gorgeous! 

Not being prone to superlatives, this will be an exception with a call to see the play. Celebrate the 400th birthday of the First Folio!


Henry Condell: Jeremy Rabb*
John Heminges: Geoff Elliott*
Richard Burbage/ William Jaggard / Horatio: Frederick Stuart*
Elizabeth Condell/Emilia Bassano Lanier/
Fruit Seller/MarcellusTrisha Miller*
Rebecca Heminges/Anne Hathaway Shakespeare: Deborah Strang*
Ralph Crane/Barman/Compositor/FranciscoKasey Mahaffy*
Alice Heminges/Susannah Shakespeare: Nicole Javier*
Ed Knight/Isaac Jaggard :Stanley Andrew Jackson*
Ben Jonson/Barman 2/Sir Edward Dering: Alex Morris*

Marcus/Boy Hamlet/Crier/Bernardo: Kelvin Morales 

Creative Team:

scenic designer Frederica Nascimento

 lighting designer Ken Booth

 sound designer Robert Oriol

 video designer Nicholas Santiago

 costume designer Angela Balogh Calin

 wig and make up designer Shelia Dorn

 dialect coach Andrea Odinov

dramaturg Miranda Johnson-Haddad. 

rehearsal stage manager: Deena Tovar.


by Lauren Gunderson  

Co - directed by Geoff Elliott & Julia Rodriguez-Elliott

A Noise Within

3352 E Foothill Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91107

Performances May 13–June 7
• Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.: May 10* ONLY (Preview)
• Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.: May 11 (Preview); May 25; June 1 (dark May 18)
• Fridays at 8 p.m.: May 12 (Preview); May 19**; May 26**; June 2**
• Saturdays at 2 p.m.: May 20; May 27; June 3 (no matinee on May 13)
• Saturdays at 8 p.m.: May 13 (Opening Night); May 20; May 27; June 3
• Sundays at 2 p.m.: May 7 (Preview); May 14; May 21**; May 28; June 4

**Post-performance conversations with the artists every Friday and on Sunday, May 21 (included in ticket price)

Tickets and Information:

(626) 356-3100



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