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Jacinta Gorringe
Jacinta Gorringe addresses the hospital staff attempting to cure William Shakespeare of writer’s block.

Review – ‘Speechless Shakespeare’ by Petaluma Shakespeare Company

Aug 28, 2018
by Alexa Chipman


A mysterious patient is wheeled in for “Literary Surgery” by an eccentric group of nurses who bicker over his treatment, occasionally expressing themselves through song. In the bizarre, timeless hospital, the doctor reveals that the afflicted poet is William Shakespeare. To restore him to health and sanity, fragments of his plays are performed through dance, music and a slow-motion broadsword melee choreographed by Marty Pistone.

Petruchio and Katherina (Ellen Rawley) strut through a wild tango from ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ and fairies trip through an ethereal ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ In a somber promenade, memorable death scenes are recreated, from suffocation in ‘Othello’ to poison asps in ‘Anthony and Cleopatra’ using a sock puppet.

Brandy Noveh as Titania wafts across the stage.

For those intimately acquainted with Shakespeare’s Canon, this production is filled with inside references and jokes. While the result is amusing for those in the know, its lack of context for fleeting scenes can be confusing if unfamiliar with Shakespearean plots. Brandy Noveh’s operatic speech therapist is the voice of reason keeping the pace flowing and providing logical insight in the peculiar hospital for lost artists.

This original work, directed by Jacinta Gorringe, is a lovely tribute to the Bard, but needs editing, with less repetition and tighter dialogue in the book. When thinking of it as a workshop production, rather than a completed play, it is entertaining and contains enough variety of song and dance to balance scenes that lag, with favorites like “Brush up your Shakespeare” from ‘Kiss Me Kate’ and “Sigh No More, Ladies” from ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ set to music.

The ensemble of ‘Speechless Shakespeare’ celebrating the Bard’s recovery.

‘Speechless Shakespeare’ appears to reference the poet’s inability to communicate with the hospital staff, rather than the style of performance; there are extensive speeches, including excerpts you may be familiar with. Arrive early to set up for a picnic and enjoy creative outdoor theater with an enthusiastic ensemble.

Speechless Shakespeare

Presented by Petaluma Shakespeare Company through September 2, 2018
Sun at 4:00pm
Free Outdoor Theater

Foundry Wharf
625 2nd Street, Petaluma, CA 94952

Photos by Crispin Clarke

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