Looking for a way to add culture to your weekend? Jared Bowen shares his picks from the Boston arts scene this week — from a comedy with heart to an investigation of the Bard.
“The Last Will,” written by famed actor, critic, playwright and producer Robert Brustein, follows an even more famed playwright — William Shakespeare — at the end of his life. The play attempts to fill in the mystery surrounding Shakespeare’s end of days and answer the question of why he left London, and his career, at 48 to be with his wife and family in Stratford.
Brustein blended biographical fact, literary themes gleaned from Shakespeare’s productions, and pure fiction to paint a picture of an artist who is jealous of women, enduring martial strife, and suffering from disease.
“I find him very touching in those years, but he had some sort of disease. He mentions it in his sonnets; he mentions that he caught a venereal disease from his ‘dark lady,’” Brustein said. “I think that this led to…the final stages of syphilis, which Oswald has in ‘Ghosts,” you may remember. And I think that this is ultimately what killed him.”
Shakespeare’s martial difficulties take center stage in this production. The playwright was eight years younger than his wife, Anne Hathaway, and the two married only after she became pregnant. For most of their marriage, Shakespeare remained in London while Hathaway resided in Stratford. But Brooke Adams, who plays Hathaway in “The Last Will,” felt that Shakespeare and Hathaway’s story was not without romance.
“Anne was a strong woman who put up with his nonsense — which was, basically, that he never was around. In a way, there was sort of a meeting of the minds with the two of them,” Adams said. “I like to think that they had a very serious romance when they were younger. He always had to have been a playwright and a poet, so probably it was incredibly romantic.”
You might know the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company from the “Shakespeare in the Park” productions they put on each summer. “The Last Will” is their first production to take place indoors, and it’s already scheduled to go to New York after the curtain closes in Boston this weekend. It’s an incredible production — one you’ll think about long after you leave the theater.
Presented by the Lyric Stage Company, playing through March 16.
Two actors, Daniel Berger-Jones and Phil Tayler, take on many roles on this play about an Irish town that plays host to a Hollywood film crew. The stars take on 15 identities, from the big shot film director to the quiet extras on set — an aerobic effort that makes the play a joy to watch.
But the play is more than just a comedic romp — it has a tremendous heft and depth to it. As the plot unfolds, you realize that the town is incredibly proud, and eager to protect its identity from the glare of a Hollywood spotlight. When tragedy strikes, it’s truly poignant to watch the effects ripple through the community as they attempt to grapple with their emotions.
Without a doubt, Berger-Jones and Tayler are the reason to see this production. Watching them flip through roles in rapid pace and handle both punch lines and sorrows is like watching a master class in acting.