Review: HER MAJESTY’S WILL at Lifeline Theatre

Review: HER MAJESTY’S WILL at Lifeline Theatre

Pictured: (Front, l-r) Peter Greenberg and Martel Manning. (Back, l-r) Heather Chrisler, Bryan Bosque, Javier Ferreira, and Mike Ooi. Photo by Cole Simon.

By Abigail Trabue

In 1585 William Shakespeare was married with three children and living in Stratford, by 1592 he was living in London, already a playwright with enough of a reputation for Robert Greene to denounce him as an “upstart crow.”

But what happened between the year his twins were born in 1585 and when he angered Greene in 1592? Referred to as the “lost years,” this span of seven years is the subject of Lifeline Theatre’s world premiere HER MAJESTY’S WILL adapted by ensemble member Robert Kauzlaric from the novel by Chicago-based author David Blixt.

Through a series of events, Will Shakespeare (Javier Ferreira) finds himself mixed up with Christopher, or Kit, Marlowe (Bryan Bosque) and from there mayhem, sword fights and plenty of danger ensue as Shakespeare, Marlowe and “The Wits” work together to unravel a plot against Queen Elizabeth. And while doing so, Shakespeare lays the groundwork for the master playwright he will become and works to free himself from his past, a past that involves father issues and a wife and kids back home.

The idea behind HER MAJESTY’S WILL is incredibly interesting and offers plenty of action thanks to Blixt who also serves as fight choreographer and Kauzlaric’s fast moving script. Director Chris Hainsworth does an excellent job of utilizing Eleanor Kahn’s imaginative and innovative set, while Aly Renee Amidei’s costumes place us smack dab in Elizabethan England (such gorgeous detail in the Helena of Snakenborg pieces). Jeffrey Levin’s original music is perfectly paired with the raucous and fast moving fight scenes and, like Amidei’s costumes, enhances the 16th century England setting.

And on that note, there are a couple things I just can’t seem to reconcile, despite how much I enjoy the plot of the show. First, with all the work the design team has done to create the world, the choice to omit the use of a British accent feels like a disservice to the language of the show. Our eyes are in England, but our ears are not, making the two at odds with each other, especially when distinctly British slang is used.

Secondly, I wanted so much more for Marlowe as a living breathing person in this story. He often felt like a caricature, rather than someone with a lot to gain and even more to lose. Often in Act One, he felt more like a servant to the scripts exposition, thus never allowing us to make that much-needed connection in order to care about his journey in the play.

With that said, the ensemble does a solid job of embodying the numerous characters required to tell this story, especially Heather Chrisler, who, as the lone female in the show, stays busy, while also serving as the chorus, or narrator, helping move us from place to place, giving emotional insight and filling in plot holes. Javier Ferreira is a very likable actor, and his Shakespeare, at times, had a little of the Joey Tribbiani about him, which made me like him even more. He, along with the other six actors, are well versed in both armed and unarmed combat, and while at times it felt like they were moving more at warm-up speed, they sold their knaps, they were clean and they displayed incredible agility from start to finish.

I don’t think we’ll ever tire of hypothesizing about the life of William Shakespeare, especially when it comes to those “lost years.” and Lifeline Theatre’s production of HER MAJESTY’S WILL is a welcome addition to the conversation.

HER MAJESTY’S WILL runs till July 16th. For more information visit lifelinetheatre.com.

About author

Abigail Trabue

Abigail has worked as an actor/director in Chicago for over ten years, and along with husband Jason Epperson founded Lotus Theatricals in 2015, and PerformInk Chicago and Kansas City in 2016 (where she serves as Managing Editor of both publications). When not talking shop, Abigail is raising three padawans with Jason, drinking lots of coffee, converting school buses into RV's, and eating all the foods at Disney World. You can find her on Twitter @AbigailTrabue

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