During the intermission of the play “Book of Will,” concessions sold a $1 three-pack of Grandma’s Chocolate Chip Cookies.
It was the highlight of the night.
According to its playbill, “The Book of Will” is an “unforgettable true story of love, loss and laughter.” The script, written by Lauren Gunderson, recounts how William Shakespeare’s posthumous collection of plays, or the first folio, came to be.
The playbill alludes to a comedic and emotional experience, but the delivery of lines missed the mark. Not only did I feel forced to crack smiles and exchange niceties, but compared to past productions like “Peter and the Starcatcher”, the purpose of the play was bleak and simply unentertaining.
The small rectangular stage in the Black Box Theater, located in the Barbara Muertes Center for the Arts, was swallowed by seats on every side. The dark yellow hues exuding from the candle-lit chandeliers bounced off the black walls, offering a dim, claustrophobic feel.
It was a rather intimate gathering. Not the kind of intimacy paired best with a delicious meal and a hunk of a man, but more like the kind where detectives play out good cop, bad cop negotiation schemes on a handcuffed inmate.
As someone with anxiety, the suffocating space put a bad taste in my mouth from the jump. I wish I could say my intuition failed me; that I was concerned for nothing and the play would be great. But my gut always knows before I do.
The negative instincts continued as the play began. One actor repeatedly stumbled on their lines, which prompted questions as to whether they were genuinely uninterested in memorizing the script. Had the script been geared towards a modern audience using exciting plot twists or improved lines maybe the performers would’ve visibly shown more fascination with it.
Along with a poorly written script and seemingly uninterested performers, the plot itself was anticlimactic. Several scenes were redundant and added nothing to the narrative, creating missed opportunities for a chance to add points of intrigue.
Even with the enormous effort that it takes to put on a show, they couldn’t make it alluring. Despite the kisses and claps from proud loved ones, something was missing.
“In this case, 2023 will be the 400th anniversary of the building of the folio, so we wanted to be close to that date, in order to honor that,” Director Titian Lish said.
While the folio is something to celebrate among renaissance buffs, it doesn’t necessarily warrant a reason to pick a Shakespearean play. The questionable choice begged crucial questions: What is the point, and what can viewers take away from this? Many, like myself, are left with no answers.
Afterall, “The Book of Will” put a restraint on the play’s accessibility. Unless all viewers were caught up on their Shakespearean references, it’s not a play that will be understandable for everyone.
To avoid sounding too much like a shrew, compliments to the stage and costume designers are in order. Complete with long gowns, wimples and leather boots, they flawlessly transported the audience to the medieval era. To top it all off, the music was eerily similar to the “Pirates of The Caribbean” soundtrack, which is always a plus in my book.
Though there wasn’t much to work with, the experience was decent thanks to a few key actors who gave powerful and lively performances. Richard Burbage, played by Lysander Sahagun, brought a two-dimensional character on a script to a fully developed charming entertainer.
Similarly, Alice Hemmings and Ed Knight, played by Madi Charles and Kale Yunker respectively, were both pleasurable to get to know and carried themselves with great stage presence.
The disappointing evening, paired with the unfriendly older crew member manning the theater entrance ultimately left me with a headache and an unusual yearning for more Grandma’s Cookies.
If you find yourself hankering for a mixture of comedy, love and an abundance of Shakespeare references — seek help. Otherwise, just stick to “Ten Things I Hate About You”.
Sophia Sipe is the editor-in-chief of The Express. Follow her @sophiasipe.