The Book of Will
I am not an avid playgoer. However, since coming to Davidson, I have had more access to attending these events. Though I have little expertise in the area, I will share my thoughts on The Book of Will as a new patron of the arts.
For context, The Book of Will is a play written by Lauren Gunderson and directed by Ann Marie Costa. It takes place shortly after William Shakespeare’s death and tells of how his friends preserved his work. After losing many of the play manuscripts in a fire, the characters rallied together to rewrite them as authentically as they could. By gathering individual character scripts, they were able to compile thirty-six complete plays. They then competed to obtain the rights to print and publish Shakespeare’s plays. Ultimately, the characters were successful in protecting Shakespeare’s legacy.
The actor playing John Heminges seemed to have more chemistry with his daughter than his wife. Besides the endearment “Daddy”, there was very little to indicate a paternal relationship. Though the feelings were not apparent while his wife was alive, they were revealed after her death. Henry and John beautifully executed the scene of mourning, exploring loss, love, and purpose. I felt uncomfortable in my seat, intruding on such a personal moment.
The female characters were, unfortunately, underdeveloped. Though women had little influence in the Elizabethan Era, they were crucial to Shakespeare’s plots. His female characters moved the play along, changing the story or furthering it. John Heminges’s wife said, “Not everyone doing good work gets applause.” This speaks true to the women of the Elizabethan Era and the numerous women in the play. The women, as characters and actresses, were underappreciated. I think he would have been disappointed with the production’s women, whom supposedly were in his life, playing such trivial roles.
Transitioning between scenes was smoothly accomplished by the actors. While entering and exiting the stage, their character held hold. Even when coming into the audience, they did not break character. However, the transition music impeded the actors from captivating the audience. The techno music was simply the wrong choice. After every scene, the audience had to actively reengage.
Though the production has some aspects to improve upon, the play was well received by the audience. Overall, the cast did a very well developing the story and engaging the audience. With minor changes to the script and design elements, the play would drastically improve.