Ohio Shakespeare Festival Presents a Glorious Production of Shakespeare in Love

Ohio Shakespeare Festival
Professional Theatre

Adapted for the stage by Lee Hall
Based on the screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard
Music by Paddy Cunneen

Will Shakespeare (Joe Pine) is a known but struggling poet, playwright, and actor who not only has sold his next play to both Philip Henslow (Lenne Snively*) and Richard Burbidge (Jason Leupold) but now faces a far more difficult problem. He is bereft of ideas and has yet to begin writing. He is in search of his muse, the woman who will inspire him but all attempts fail him until he meets the beautiful Viola de Lesseps (Tess Burgler). She loves the theatre and would like nothing more than to take to the stage but is forbidden from doing so as only men can be actors. She is also a great admirer of Shakespeare's works. Dressing as a man and going by the name of Thomas Kent (Kent), she auditions and is ideal for a part in his next play. Shakespeare soon sees through her disguise and they begin a love affair, one they know cannot end happily for them as he is already married and she has been promised to the dour Lord Wessex (James Rankin). As the company rehearses his new play, Will and Viola's love is transferred to the written page leading to the masterpiece that is Romeo and Juliet.

Director Nancy Cates has made sure that everyone on stage has their own moment within the play. So many wonderful actors collaborating effortlessly to create laughs, entertaining stage fights, and moments of pure truth, all while telling a very clever story. Cates also has a statement of empowerment through casting. Females were not allowed to perform on stage during Shakespeare primary work production, but Cates has cast several women in male roles. Strong, entertaining choice.

Leading this parade of talent are Pine as Will Shakespeare and Burgler as Viola DeLesseps aka Thomas Kent. Both actors have their burners on full throttle. Such a wonderful grasp of storytelling, making each moment count, and entertaining as hell. Burgler moves about the stage like translucent power, spreading her powerful and textured essence through every scene, while letting us see through her beautiful glow, to her core of truth and emotions, and making us laugh at well. Pine also cuts a fine figure as he starts the performance exuding confidence, and sets the tone for this hilarious tale with adept skill. He embraces his "Will" and drives the storyline with professional flair. He also makes me want to hop on Amazon.com and order a Bowflex and a shock collar that is triggered by carbs. (Sorry, I just self-destructed, as I did when I was holding my snickers bar during Act One and it melted in my hand). This is a terrific performance from an incredible partnership.

But that is just the beginning of the fun and moments to remember. Lara Mielcarek* is a scream as Kit Marlowe, who helps Will along the way by making very good suggestions about how to end phrases, titles, and the "How about this?' gift. Scott Shriner is a blast as Fenneyman, the money man. So many fun moments. Snively plays Henslowe, the owner of the Rose with comedic aplomb. Playing the male role, Snively has a blast managing the Rose, and provides lots of jolly.  Leupold adds not only his acting chops but his beautiful voice to the journey. Adding many moments of mirth, and skillful swordplay. He is also the Music Director, which under his guidance creates beautiful and dynamic harmonies. Ryan Zarecki is a master of swordplay and confidence on stage, and also handles the duty of Fight Director. He is fierce in his fight choreography, incredibly entertaining and real. Watching him perform, please remind me not to piss him off, as I watched him flip a cast member over his shoulder like he was a one pound kettlebell.  He exudes charm and presence. James Rankin makes for a glorious villain of love. His folly is our gold. Well done. Holly Humes was AMAZING as Queen Elizabeth I. Her stage presence is extraordinary. I would like to nominate her for UN Ambassador. If she walked into the UN like she does a stage, she would become the Security Council all on her own. Amiee Collier makes for a hilarious Nurse. Her comedic timing is gold. I could not get enough of her traversing through her scenes. And it was nice that her doggie Buckley was able to show up and perform the ever important Spot. Nailed it. 

Katie Zarecki brings her acting chops and her top-notch choreography to the stage. Minuet dancing can be simple and blah, but Zarecki adds much detail and unexpected small moves and formations, that make an engaging movement. And, she is very at home with swordplay. Also, Elise Pakila is a fireball of energy and bravado as John Webster. Her confidence is compelling, and her fearlessness in her scene work is highly rewarding to watch. The rest of the cast fill in for so many characters and each of them are on point. Nothing is wasted EVER. There are many more talented performers in the show. Every one of them adds to the craziness of the evening and helps create a fantastic entertaining show. The Company work is some of the best I have seen in a long time. Great work from all.

If you have never been to The Ohio Shakespeare Festival, or not comfortable with Shakespearean adventures, this is the show that you really should see. It is an excellent introduction to the company members, their new home at the Greystone Hall, and allowing Shakespeare to be so accessible and fascinating for nonscholars like me. 

Pine's Set Design served well and provided smooth transitions. Mark Stoffer provided the Light and Sound Design. Well done. The sound was clear, and only took a moment of adjustment in the high ceiling hall. Lights are hung high, so there was some shadow play, but not enough to impede the action. Costume Design was to die for. Marty LaConte and Kelsey Tomlinson threw themselves a party and provided fabulous looks. And the pieces that were constructed by Nancy Humes, bravo on the intricate and period work that added so much to this success. Stage Manager Michelle Elyse Levinson called a great show.

I am a big believer in the energy of a production, and the energy of a theatre. When I walk into a lobby, my Spidey sense usually detects drama or excitement. In the case of OSF, I felt joy.

Take the trip to check out this show. I promise you will not be disappointed. it rocks on every level.
Ticket Information
and Promotional Materials


8pm Thursdays
8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays
2pm Sundays

Content Advisories: Some mildly adult language/content; use discretion

$15-$33 Reserved Seating

(330) 673-8761

OSF Greystone Hall
103 High Street, Sixth Floor
Akron, OH 44308