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Theater Review: ‘Shakespeare in Love’ is a charming tribute to the theater at Asolo Rep – Entertainment & Life – Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Stage version of Oscar-winning film runs through March 28

Though it’s not quite as rollicking as the 1998 Oscar-winning film on which it’s based, the newish stage version of “Shakespeare in Love” is an enjoyable, gorgeously designed romantic spectacle that speaks to the power and glory of the theater and, of course, the brilliance of William Shakespeare.

Rachel Rockwell, who staged a well-received production last year at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, has brought her same team of designers to Sarasota, where they work some visual magic. Scott Davis’ two-level set recalls the wooden frame of the historic Rose Theatre. The set revolves creating lots of different playing areas for the large cast. Susan Mickey’s costumes rival the film for their extravagance (especially for the imperious and sour-looking Peggy Roeder who plays a Queen Elizabeth that you wish had more to do), and Robert Wierzel’s lighting is both sumptuous and mood-shifting.

The play, adapted by Lee Hall from the Oscar-winning screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard, follows the framework of the movie, which goes behind the scenes of the Elizabethan theater world and considers what may have led Shakespeare to write some of his great plays.

It is about the relationship between Shakespeare, who is living in London away from his wife and family, and Viola de Lesseps, the daughter of a wealthy man whose only real desire is to be an actor at a time when women were forbidden from appearing on stage.

Will, played by a dashing Jordan Brown, is struggling to put the words together for the next play he has promised his financially desperate producer Henslowe (Jack Wetherall). Or is it supposed to go to Henslowe’s rival Richard Burbage? Both have deals with Shakespeare, and Burbage thinks nothing of stealing what he needs.

When Viola shows up disguised as a man to pursue her acting dreams, she quickly becomes Shakespeare’s muse and…

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