“Theatre is lived, not kept. It sleeps when we do.”
- ("Henry") / Lauren Gunderson
Written By Lauren Gunderson
Directed by Bryn Boice
Cast Includes: Jeremy Beazlie as "Ed Knight"/"Isaac Jaggard"; John Blair as ""Ben Johnson"/"Dering"/"Barman"; Lauren Elias as ""Alice Heminges"/"Emilia Lanier"; Jessica Golden as "Elizabeth Condell"/"Susannah"/"Fruit Seller"/"Horatio"; Dev Luthra as ""Richard Burbage"/"William Jaggard"; Cleveland Nicoll as "Henry Condell"; Brendan O'Neill as "John Heminges"; Laura Rocklyn as "Rebecca Heminges"/"Anne Hathaway"; Josh Telepman as "Ralph Crane"/"Barman 2"/"Francisco Compositor"; Robert Thorpe as "Marcus"/"Boy Hamlet"/"Crier"/"Bernardo".
Additional Creative Team:
Assistant Director - Lauren Cook; Stage Manager - Kelsey Whipple; Assistant Stage Manager - Kendra Waugh; Producer - Lauren Elias; Sound Design - Ted Kearnan; Set Design - Peyton Tavares; Associate Scenic Designer/Technical Director - Thomas Cappelli; Costume Design - Ellie De Lucia; Lighting Design - Talia Elise; Production Manager - Andrea McAdam; Properties Design – Elektra T. Newman; Dramaturg – Julie-Anne Whitney.
October 27, 2023 through November 12, 2023
(Contact Venue for Exact Dates and Times)
The Boston Center for the Arts Plaza Theatre, 539 Tremont St. in Boston’s Back Bay, Boston, MA.
Tickets: Pay As You Can
For tickets or more information, visit www.hubtheatreboston.org
COVID 19 PROTOCOLS
Contact Venue for Most Updated COVID-19 Safety Protocols and Information.
This story and its staging, as written by Lauren Gunderson, includes a superb cast guided by the concise direction of Bryn Boice.
The entire approach is wisely intended not to use the name of William Shakespeare nor his collective works simply as mere comedic device.
While central to the plot, instead, Gunderson’s story of Shakespeare seeks to tell the tale of a band of artists - nay, a band of his friends that "remain constant in all other things" even after his death - whose mission is to equally celebrate and preserve the Bard’s legacy for all time.
Much praise must be given to Gunderson in the constructed relationships between the various characters of “BOOK OF WILL” as each and every interaction comes across as completely genuine.
The HUB show is funny without having to lower itself to become more schtick than substance.
Amid the backdrop of Elizabethan London during an artistic Renaissance, the intricately designed set used for the production uses several areas in uniquely artistic ways, allowing for a more ethereal approach.
Kudos to the entire HUB creative team for the implementation of propitiously timed lighting and sound cues. Costumes are perfect for the time period, as well.
There have been numerous plays written by Shakespeare staged over the centuries, but the world wouldn’t have had much source material to produce if not for those who took it upon themselves to gather, combine and produce a comprehensive collection – a “folio” - of all the Bard's works.
Without the early efforts of those like Henry Condell (Cleveland Nicoll) and John Heminges (Brendan O’Neill), the world might have read "Macbeth," "Hamlet," "Romeo and Juliet," the comedies, tragedies, sonnets, etc. but not in the way the timeless Shakespearean stories were intended to be told.
As Condell and Heminges, Nicoll and O’Neill’s relationship on stage transcends friendship, especially during a intense exchange in a bonding moment at the start of the show's second act.
What we witness is a close, brotherly relationship and the respect and fondness for one another comes across as genuine.
As "THE BOOK OF WILL" begins, the two men are seated with fellow thespian friend Richard Burbage (Dev Luthra) at a pub following a dismal Shakespearean performance taking place several years after the death of the Bard, who was both friend and mentor to the trio.
Luthra is excellent as the high strung "Burbage" then later impresses equally as the unscrupulous blind printer "Willian Jaggard" who, along with his far more trustworthy son, "Isaac" (played exceptionally well by Jeremy Beazlie), becomes a central figure in preserving the Bard's legacy.
Upon learning of the loss of yet another Shakespearean legendary performer, Condell and Heminges realize that their numbers are dwindling, becoming dangerously close to zero of those who, like them, actually knew their buddy “Will” and how he wrote.
So, tired of seeing the words of Shakespeare massacred by mediocre actors, they decide to create the "First Folio" of Shakespeare for posterity.
How close are the events in "THE BOOK OF WILL" to the truth of how the First Folio was created?
Who knows and...not to diminish the efforts by any Shakespearean scholars but...who cares?
Whatever the actual events were, the story told here is seemingly done with complete care and respect for all the actual participants.
As partners, Condell and Heminges are supported by their respective families, including Heminges' wife, Rebecca (Laura Rocklyn) and daughter, Alice (Lauren Elias) and Condell's wife, Elizabeth (Jessica Golden).
Rocklyn, Elias and Golden serve the material well functioning in multiple roles throughout the story, including Rocklyn taking on Shakespeare's stalwart spouse, "Anne Hathaway" and Elias as "Emilia Lanier," the Italian feminist and poet, suspected to be one of the Bard's many lovers.
(Photo: Brendan O’Neill as "John Heminges" and Cleveland Nicoll as "Henry Condell" in the Hub Theatre Company of Boston CAST of "THE BOOK OF WILL" by Lauren Gunderson now playing in Boston, MA. through November 12, 2023. Photo Credit Tim Gurczak)
Banded together - and without their resilience, persistence, forceful nature and respective contributions - the literal book in the "THE BOOK OF WILL" would certainly never have made it beyond the concept stage.
Together forming this unusual team, all are ardent fans of Shakespeare's writings.
They quote word-for-word, verse-for-verse, his lines right out of the thin air with the same "reality show" verve and obsessive recall of specific details as from the latest "Vanderpump Rules." (Presumably folks must have needed something like that during the Renaissance).
While their intentions are clear, and after enlisting the aid of an experienced scrivener Ralph Crane (Josh Telepman), Heminges and Condell hit obstacle after obstacle because they simply cannot afford to produce such a massive volume of work.
At least, not by themselves.
In addition to, begrudgingly, partnering with the Jaggards, they also need a critical endorsement from highly critical Shakespeare rival, Ben Johnson (John Blair), who is presented as someone who truly loathed Shakespeare and having little incentive to endorse such a collection.
Blair is both charismatic and hilarious as the problematic poet Johnson and, along with Telepman as "savant-ish" Crane, probably provides the show's biggest laughs.
While the Gunderson story seems familiar, "THE BOOK OF WILL" is far more than simple farce.
We come to really care about all these characters and, not only how they resonate with Shakespeare, but also how they resonate with one another.
"THE BOOK OF WILL" continues in Boston until November 12th when the curtain falls and it bids "adieu." Don't miss out on seeing this wonderful story.
Approximately two hours, 10 minutes with one intermission.
Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA)
ABOUT THE SHOW
An event four hundred years in the making!
"THE BOOK OF WILL" by Lauren Gunderson and directed by Bryn Boice is an intimate backstage pass about a group of friends (Shakespeare’s nearest and dearest in this case) who make the impossible happen and forever change the way great works of the theater are preserved for generations to come.
Seven years after the death of Shakespeare, a small group of unexpected heroes with no money, resources, or experience come together to compile what would become Shakespeare's First Folio.
This rapid fire and buoyant play tells the story of those who knew Shakespeare best as they fight to collect 37 of his plays into one volume against all odds.
Their translation of words from the stage to the page would forever change theater and literature.
"THE BOOK OF WILL" is a love letter to Shakespeare, the power of art, and the stage.
HUB THEATRE COMPANY OF BOSTON (HUB) was founded in 2012 to foster creativity among Boston's emerging theatre artists. HUB is a 501(c)(3) non-profit professional non-Equity theatre company committed to entertaining, captivating, socially aware and emotionally engaging theatre in intimate settings. In the interest of cultivating a diverse audience and breaking down barriers between audience and art, all tickets to all performances are Pay-What-You-Can.