Shakespearean Romp @ Lifeline

Theatre Review by Angela Allyn

4 stars out of 4

What Lifeline Theatre has always been able to do as well as anyone in the world is take a handful of talented actors and conjure a bustling city or another universe in the small storefront space down a narrow lane. Lifeline is like a Tardis.  It is an immersive theatrical experience where the only aisle for the seating is a main entrance for the actors and the intimate space keeps you on top of the action, as in the best of all Chicago storefront theaters . Whether creating a civil war army or a dystopian future metropolis, Lifeline can take a book and bring it to breathless life and make you forget you are sitting in a ice cold exposed brick walled box.  In Her Majesty’s Will, now on the boards, director Chris Hainsworth transports us back to Shakespeare’s lost years.  

(L to R) Heather Chrisler as Lady Helena and Javier Ferreira as William Shakespeare. Photo by Cole Simon.

Adapting the historical fiction book of the same name by David Blixt, an ensemble of nine actors creates rural Lancashire to seething London, in a swashbuckling tale of intrigue and ambition. There are clever costumes by Renee Amidei and Eleanor Kahn’s simple set of a rolling box, a rolling gate, some stairs and a bridge that come to represent everything from the Tower of London to a runaway royal carriage. The plot of the show has Shakespeare, played by an earnest Javier Ferreira, school teaching under the assumed name of Falstaff, hiding from Sir Thomas Lucy who wants him for a murder in Stratford.  Shakespeare/Falstaff saves the life of Kit Marlowe, played with effeminate cunning by Bryan Bosque.  This tale posits an eventual romantic liaison between the two, but not before this road movie of a storyline has them scheming to save the queen from a murder plot.  As the show progresses, cast members morph into a cast of thousands.  Particular standout is Heather Chrisler who is our narrator, the criminal Em Ball and a lady in waiting to Queen Elizabeth herself. Every member of this productions is top notch. And as to be expected from a novel written by a fight choreographer, who returns to stage the violence for his own adapted work,there is lots and lots of fighting: fists and swords regularly punctuate post scene shifts.

Robert Kauzlaric, who adapted this book for the stage, is to be commended for creating a fast moving, emotionally resonant story that you will revel in.  It is a testament to following your gifts, taking risks and living your destiny as you find your identity. 

Her Majesty’s Will runs Thursdays through Sundays until July 16th at Lifeline Theatre at 6912 N. Glenwood in Chicago’s Rogers Park. There is an open captioned show on June 17 and a touch tour/audio described show on June 24. For tickets to all shows and further information go to www.lifelinetheatre.com or call 773-761-4477.