Theatrical Outfit’s “The Book of Will” (by Decatur native Lauren Gunderson) features Suehyla El-Attar (left) and Elisa Carlson. CONTRIBUTED BY GREG MOONEY
Dutifully joining in the epic task: Heminges’ daughter (Eliana Marianes); his wife (Elisa Carlson), as well as Condell’s (Suehyla El-Attar); several business associates (McKerley again as the publisher William Jaggard, Kyle Brumley as his son, Paul Hester as an editor); and Shakespeare’s own rival (William S. Murphey as Ben Jonson) and former mistress (El-Attar again).
Along the way, Gunderson frequently addresses both the artistic merit of Shakespeare himself and the transformative potential of theater in general. She cleverly incorporates all sorts of “inside” references to and excerpts from his plays: McKerley’s mishmash of a soliloquy (as Burbage) is one highlight; another is Brumley and Hester’s routine about “Love’s Labour’s Lost.”
Later, once Heminges is forced to confront seemingly insurmountable personal grief, Key delivers his most powerful scene. Why bother with “forged fiction” in a theater, he wonders, when real life can be dramatic enough? Because the one occasionally provides a certain solace from the other, he ultimately realizes.
The cast of Theatrical Outfit’s “The Book of Will” includes Kyle Brumley (from left), Paul Hester and Ryan Vo. CONTRIBUTED BY GREG MOONEY
The cast (also including Ryan Vo in a few smaller roles) is uniformly resourceful. And the estimable Crowe, who previously staged Gunderson's "Silent Sky" for the Outfit, expertly captures and demonstrates her contrasting objectives here, striking a beautiful balance.
From the opening sounds of rustling papers that gradually turn into a round of applause, to various flights of shadow play, another effective moment depicting two scenes unfolding and overlapping concurrently around a shared table, and finally culminating in a pantomimed enactment of the Bard’s “greatest hits,” the show consistently charms and delights.
The immaculate set is designed by Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay, the elaborate lighting by Mary Parker, the intricate sound by Dan Bauman, and the period costumes by Emmie Tuttle.
Alternately fanciful and insightful, “The Book of Will” essentially impresses at every turn.
“The Book of Will”
Through Sept. 9. 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays; 11 a.m. Thursdays (Aug. 23 and 30 only); 7:30 p.m. Monday (Sept. 3 only). $20.50-$49. Balzer Theater at Herren's, 84 Luckie St. NW, Atlanta. 678-528-1500, theatricaloutfit.org.
Bottom line: A terrific tribute to Shakespeare — and the theater.
IN OTHER NEWS:
6 Music Midtown acts to catch this year Kacey Musgraves will perform at 6:45 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15. Janelle Monae will hit the stage Sunday, Sept. 16, at 4:45 p.m. Post Malone will perform during the 9:45 p.m. show Saturday, Sept. 15. Catch Foster the People at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16. Newcomer Khalid will perform at 6:45 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16. Kendrick Lamar will finish out Music Midtown at 8:45 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16.