Wednesday, March 2, 2016

theatre review - WITTENBERG - Southwest Shakespeare Company - February 28, 2016

Marshall Glass and David Dickinson
photo: Patrick Walsh
Click here for more information on this production that runs through March 12th.

 "David Davalos' Wittenberg is a humorous prequel, of sorts, to Shakespeare's Hamlet, the story of Martin Luther, and Christopher Marlowe's play Doctor Faustus. Full of witty word play, Davalos has taken the nugget of information that Shakespeare dispersed in his play concerning Wittenberg being Hamlet's alma mater, and where he was present when he received the news of his father's death, as his launching pad for this inspired play. When Davalos remembered that Dr. John Faustus taught at Wittenberg before his deal with the devil and that Martin Luther was a professor of theology at the school before he started the Protestant Reformation, he was able to create an intriguing historical comedy that places all three men at the German college at the same time. Southwest Shakespeare presents the local premiere of the 2008 play in an exceptionally cast and well-directed production featuring fiery barbs and pitting philosophy against theology....Having some knowledge of these three men helps to get the jokes, names, and references, but even if you only know a little about them, the easy to understand language enables those of us who aren't highly intellectual scholars to fully comprehend the themes and ideas Davalos brings up....Kent Burnham's savvy direction is matched by a cast that smartly, and humorously, portrays these famous characters, warts and all. As Faustus, David Dickinson is charming, feisty, argumentative and full of life....Marshall Glass is introspective as Luther.....Luther is saddened and torn and Glass exhibits those conflicted feelings exceptionally. William Wilson is equally adept at portraying the conflict that Hamlet faces, both in his nightmares and in his waking life. While Wilson is a gifted comic and delivers his many humorous lines with a natural ease, his final scene, as Hamlet has received news of his father's death, is serious, and delivered so well that it makes me hope to see Wilson play Hamlet in Shakespeare's tragedy one day. Allison Sell portrays four very different women with aplomb. ...Burnham's sharp direction never falters in ensuring the humorous moments land yet adds a stirring relevance to the dramatic ones as well. ..Zany and thought-provoking aren't two descriptions that usually go together, yet the smartly written Wittenberg manages to be both and it also doesn't require you to have a philosophy or theology degree to easily comprehend the ideas, themes, and debates the play raises. Southwest Shakespeare Company's production has a gifted cast, clear direction, and excellent creative aspects and the end result is charming, intellectual, confident and inspiring, yet also extremely hilarious."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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