Produced by: Pear Theatre
Directed by: William J. Brown III
Featuring: Kevin Hammond, Mark Vashro, Lauren Hayes, Dan Wilson, Jim Johnson, Alyssa Lupo-Zulueta, Amelia Adams, LeighAnn Cannon
Running time: 120 minutes, one intermission
When: June 22 through July 16, 2017
Where: Pear Theatre, 1110 La Avenida Street, Mountain View
Tickets: $10-$35; visit www.thepear.org/boxoffice or call 650-254-1148.
from yon Pear Theatre breaks?
for anybody who loves theater and actors having fun
"What You Will" at The Pear in Mountain View is an absolutely delightful comedy romp.
Anybody who likes theater ought to love it, because it gives a bunch of very good actors a giant playroom, and it is so fun to watch them create and perform in front of us.
It is a theatrical dream. A good one.
And yes, it is all Shakespeare, but it is cut-and-paste Shakespeare, with playwright Max Gutmann taking thousands of lines from the Bard's plays and rearranging them into a whole new story.
And it is so amusingly done that anybody — even children who never heard of Shakespeare — could enjoy this play, which leans heavily on clowns, as did Shakespeare, to a lesser degree.
There's ham-handed cross-dressing, foolishly mistaken identities, an absolute riot of entrances and exits and such over-the-top performances that anybody could laugh at it.
It's a blast.
The Pear is using its wrap-around seating for the first time, for what could be called theater-in-the-round, except it's theater-in-the-rectangle.
The audience enters to seats around an obvious stage area, with a centerpiece of red/white tree-trunk-like things that are covered with bits of costuming.
The cast of eight — who among them play 15 roles — enter in street clothes and pick up bits of costume to enter their roles. The tree things are pulled and pushed into various configurations over the course of the play.
Kevin Hammond enters wearing blue jeans (not yet available in Shakespeare's time), but throws on a vest that gives him a regal air, helped along by his performance, as The Duke. He is one of only two actors who stay in one character for the entire show, the other being Mark Vashro as Antonio — although Vashro gets to do some cross-dressing later, when Antonio pretends to be his own wife.
The plot — which maybe doesn't actually matter, given all the goofiness that fills this production, has Antonio coming back from a diplomatic mission to France with a beautiful French wife who doesn't speak much English.
For reasons unknown to Antonio or the audience, The Duke is angry at Antonio, and banishes him from the court.
That's why Antonio pretends to be his own wife, hoping that in her clothes he can convince The Duke to accept him again.
A complication is that The Duke is a total horndog, except he doesn't like his wife, the Duchess.
We see Leighann Cannon exiting The Duke's chambers as a giggly, sexy serving girl, under the suspicious eyes of Amelia Adams as the Duchess.
Here is an example of widely varying acting styles, which is, in fact, very Shakespearean, and also very fun for the audience.
Cannon is pretty much a straight performer, both as the giggly serving girl and then later, as Antonio's loving wife, Katherine. She's very good, very sincere.
Adams, however, is the Queen of the Over-The-Top. Tall and beautiful as The Duchess, with considerable lovely cleavage, she is such an imperious and suspicious snob that it's obvious she's playing it for laughs. Later, she is Borachio, one of the kidnappers, and also Bianca, a bent-over, mostly blind old lady who trips and yelps, even over another actor's speeches, which is quite funny.
Jim Johnson, a regular at a number of theaters in the area, is very funny, with his unique, rather slow delivery. He is an attendant to The Duke, and Claudio, one of the kidnappers.
Alyssa Lupo-Zulueta seems fairly straight in performance as the doctor, then has a great, funny bit involving mime as one of the conspirators — I won't give it away here, see it and be surprised.
Lauren Hayes is solid as Malvolio and and Balthasar.
Dan Wilson is wonderful as Roderigo, with his deep, imperious voice and quilted Elizabethan collar, then almost completely unrecognizable as the dim-witted messenger. Very, very funny stuff.
The business of The Duke's lust makes for much fun. "His appetite for ladies will undo us," someone says at one point, and it's so true.
When Vashro, as Antonio, puts on a very messy blonde wig and a rather beat-up looking bit of dress to pretend to be his own wife, the comedy hits the fan when the The Duke falls in crotch-grabbing lust with her.
Things get more complicated when the beautiful Duchess gets the hots for the messenger.
There are times when the cast is rushing on and off stage in a whirlwind of dialogue, and it is very fun, and very well performed.
Hats off to director William J. Brown III, who did miracle work with blocking and timing.
Hats off to the entire cast — who have some of the best theatrical pedigrees seen at The Pear — for a surprising, excellent show.
For those who have some familiarity with Shakespeare, it's even more fun, because all sorts of familiar lines pop up in unfamiliar places, including "Alas, Yorick" and "To thine own self be true."
Hats off to Gutmann.
Email John Orr at email@example.com