Making its Midwest premier at The Loft Theatre through May 3.
Despite the fact that I majored in English, Shakespeare and sleeping pills have always been pretty synonymous with each other in my mind. Both include long, hard to pronounce names and have me completely knocked out within minutes. So it was with some hesitation that I attended ‘Taking Shakespeare,’ as I didn’t want to interrupt the performance with my loud snoring, but there was nothing to fear as I was instead awakened to a newfound appreciation for the playwright.
Making its Midwest premier, ‘Taking Shakespeare,’ continues its run at The Loft Theatre through May 3. Those who love Shakespeare, and can quote a line other than ‘To be or not to be…’ as well as those who are only slightly interested when Clare Danes plays one of his characters in the movie version, will find plenty to enjoy within the play. ‘Taking Shakespeare’ revolves around a longtime, disillusioned professor, who has become a bit of a recluse within her ground floor apartment of an old home. The Professor reluctantly agrees to tutor Murph, a freshman struggling to connect with Shakespeare’s writings. So every Friday…err Thursday (makes no difference to the Prof), they meet together to read through ‘Othello’ and try to make some sense of it.
Though it’s just a two person show, (unfortunately there’s no glimpses of the cutie who lives upstairs), the extraordinary talents of Johanna Leister (Prof) and Jon Kovach (Murph) are equivalent to having a large cast. The inner conflict within the Prof is riveting, which Leister displays through her movements and vocal tone. The passion her character feels for Shakespeare is contagious. Her entire performance is a tutorial on totally embodying a role. Her brilliance is matched by Kovach, who serves a perfect reflection of a wayward college student who is just trying to survive. He relates more to Lara Croft, than Juliet, as video games are his passion. Though Murph may be kind of dim, Kovach brings a lot of brightness to the role, and not just via his multi-colored socks. The Prof and Murph begin at totally opposite sides of the spectrum, but over time make some discoveries about themselves and see that they have some things in common.
True to Shakespeare’s style, the dialogue in ‘Taking Shakespeare’ goes beneath the surface to reveal some underlying layers. Dig deep enough and you’ll even find a flatulence joke. As complex as Shakespeare’s writings were, he knew a true comedy had to include a fart. Even Murph and I have to give him credit for that.
A highlight from ‘Taking Shakespeare’ is when the Prof and Murph read lines to one another from ‘Othello’ with intensity, done better than can be found on any London stage. I of course, don’t know what they were saying, but it sounded really good.
There’s much to gain from seeing ‘Taking Shakespeare’ as its not only an enjoyable theatrical experience, but also sheds some light onto ‘Othello,’ so now you don’t have to read it. The show continues through May 3.
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