Review: The Book of Will (Northlight Theatre)

| November 27, 2017

Gregory Linington stars as Henry Condell in The Book of Will, Northlight Theatre            


The Book of Will

Written by Lauren Gunderson 
Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd. (map)
thru Dec 17  |  tix: $30-$81  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   


That Shakespeare’s work could be lost? Unthinkable!


The Book of Will at Northlight Theatre 4

Northlight Theatre presents
The Book of Will

Review by Johanna Dalton

From the first word spoken in The Book of Will the audience is transported to 1619 during the Renaissance in Elizabethan England, three years after the death of William Shakespeare. Though Shakespeare has passed, the air is alive with his presence in the form of the players who have so long “walked the boards” of the stage performing his works and seem to breath his very thoughts. All the while they lament Will’s absence, they cry out in anger at the wide-spread misappropriation of his words in unauthorized and bungling performances that have been springing up everywhere. Something must be done!

Gregory Linington stars as Henry Condell in The Book of Will, Northlight TheatreAnd so the die is cast. That the words, the very soul of the actors’ beloved bard might be lost spurs the group to take action: they forge a plan to publish a collection of Shakespeare’s original works in what would be called “The First Folio”. The central setting is a bawdy drinking establishment frequented by The King’s Men, dedicated and favored performers of Shakespeare’s plays, Richard Burbage (Austin Tichenor), Henry Condell (Gregory Linington) and John Heminges (Jim Ortlieb). Tichenor as Burbage so embodies the words of Will that one almost mistakes him for Shakespeare himself; he is missed the moment he makes his exit. Will’s other devoted friends, Henry and John, who seem to live their lives upon the stage, and their wives, Elizabeth Condell (McKinley Carter) and Alice Heminges (Dana Black) drive the thorny path against the “sea of troubles” they soon face.

One of their troubles is William Jaggard (also Tichenor) who has designs on owning all of Shakespeare’s works for his own profit, though his son Isaac (Luigi Sottile) has ideas of his own. Another is Ben Jonson (William Dick), Shakespeare’s chief rival, who delivers an anguished performance when asked to write a forward recommending The First Folio.

The cast is flawless, with a special mention to Tichenor’s commanding portrayal of Burbage. The pacing is just right as the road to achieving their goal becomes dotted with further loss. The set transitions are beautifully done, with artful use of lighting (Paul Toben) as well as visual techniques in the moment to move the action forward without dialogue.

Following on the Jeff nominated Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, playwright Lauren Gunderson, has done a masterful job of seamlessly weaving selections of Shakespeare’s memorable original words in with her own that are perfectly tuned to the topic and time. This production fully justifies her status as the most produced living playwright in America for 2017. Under Director Jessica Thebus’ light touch, we are guided through loss and despair to a pinnacle achievement—securing the timeless work of perhaps the greatest poet/playwright of all time. The celebration of their success is expressed in a purely magical finish that conjures up countless echoes of all the beauty, tragedy, light and darkness, pain and love that is William Shakespeare. Simply a triumph!

Rating: ★★★★

The Book of Will continues through December 17th at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd. (map), with performances Wednesdays 1pm & 7:30pm, Thursdays 7:30pm, Fridays 8pm, Saturdays 2:30pm & 8pm, Sundays 2:30pm & 7pm.  Tickets are $30-$81 (students: $15), and are available by phone (847-673-6300) or online at their website (check for availability of half-price tickets). More info at time: 2 hours 20 minutes, includes an intermission)

Dana Black, Rengin Altay, Gregory Linington, Jim Ortlieb and McKinley Carter

Photos by Liz Lauren 




Rengin Altay (Rebecca Heminges, Anne Hathaway), Dana Black (Alice Heminges, Susannah Shakespeare), McKinley Carter (Elizabeth Condell, Emilia Lanier, Fruit Seller, Marcellus), Thomas J. Cox (Ralph Crane, Compositor, Barman, Francisco), William Dick (Ben Jonson, Sir Edward Dering, Barman 2, Horatio), Sam Hubbard (Marcus, Boy Hamlet, Crier, Bernardo), Gregory Linington (Henry Condell), Jim Ortlieb (John Hemiges), Luigi Sottile (Ed Knight, Isaac Jaggard), Austin Tichenor (Richard Burbage, William Jaggard)

Understudies: Tony Bozzuto (Henry), Will Crouse (Ed), Jason Goff (Ralph), Julie Stevens (Rebecca), Peter Vamvakas (John), Brenna Welsh (Alice/Elizabeth), John Wilson (Richard/Ben), Sam Woodhull (Marcus).

behind the scenes

Jessica Thebus (director), Richard & Jacqueline Penrod (scenic design); Janice Pytel  (costume design), Paul Toben (lighting design), Rich Sims (original music, sound design), Lynn Baber (casting director), Kimberly Ann McCann (production stage manager), Paskal Rudnicke Casting (understudy casting), Nate Cohen, Sarah Gitenstein, Danielle Roos (assistant directors), Amanda Herrmann (properties master), Katy Garcia (production assistant), Lauren Shouse (production dramaturg), Kristen Osborn, Matthew Stein, Sophie Hamm (assistant dramaturgs), Kyle Pingel (wigs), Kristin Ginther (second wardrobe), Adam Goldstein (dialect coach), Liz Lauren (photos)


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Category: 2017 Reviews, Johanna Dalton, North Shore Center for the Arts, Northlight Theatre, William Shakespeare

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