I took it up again reluctantly. But, I told myself, if I am to blog about plays it must be the tedious and annoying as well as the great. So I started again, hoping to quickly plow through this longish, wordy, three act play that had already turned me off once. Thank heaven for discipline and second chances.
The play is astonishingly good and deserves all the praise heaped on it in those reviews (well the topaz line may be much for anything other that a topaz). I mean, wow. The young Will Shakespeare character speaks with a wonderfully realized and believable eloquence, at once earthy and ethereal, simple and complex that one can easily believe belongs to a young Shakespeare. Plus there is a wonderful part for a mature (30's - 40's) woman in Anne (presumably Hathaway), Shakespeare's wife. There is at least one ardent and heart breaking love scene. I couldn't tell exactly which scene was supposed to be the other one.
The plot is roughly that young Shakespeare, Will in the text, is a young ne'er do well, in town with older wife who he both loves and fears his love for, tries to come to terms with the restlessness within him which was kindled by seeing the traveling players who come to town. Like Playing for Time, this play has a built in historical resolution, in that one knows Shakespeare will become a, if not the definitive, playwright and leave his wife for London. The play is so effective and Anne's characterization so powerful that it almost has you hoping for Will to remain simple Will and not go off to London to become Shakespeare.
The play is well structured with a good dose of comedy in the beginning before the more weighty and philosophical elements make their way to the front of the story. Beside Will and Anne there is a wonderfully written Sir Thomas character the seeming bad guy but more complexly realized then that, and a nicely imagined young female character called Jenny.
This is definitely a play I would love to see produced. I assume it isn't because it requires such a large cast, while most of the scenes feature just a few actors. It's always hard to get actors to play small parts. One last strange little aside: I was reading this play on the Pittsburgh Light Rail system, when a woman exiting noticed the play and told me it was good and that she'd been in it some years ago.
Find this play. Read it. I thinks it's quite, quite good.