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The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

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REVIEW: ‘The Book of Will’ Celebrates the Legacy of William Shakespeare 

Nikki+Riniti+pours+a+cup+of+ale+for+Jack+Cirillo+during+The+Book+of+Will.
Courtesy of Sholten Singe/The Herald Dispatch
Nikki Riniti pours a cup of ale for Jack Cirillo during “The Book of Will.”

The cast of “The Book of Will,” led by director Leah Turley, took a simple story and transformed it into a magnetic triumph of Shakespearean proportions. The famed playwright’s impact was brilliantly captured in this period piece that serves as a love letter to his literary contributions.  

Plot: 4/5 

“The Book of Will” follows a passionate group of thespians and theater lovers that work to compile William Shakespeare’s plays into a singular source. We first see our protagonists sitting in a pub, grumbling and complaining about the poor portrayal of their late friend’s plays. Shakespeare had died three years earlier, and his doting colleagues lament the theatrical tarnishing being wrought by insincere performers and hollow imitators. Actors John Heminges, Henry Condell and the demonstrative Richard Burbage regale Heminges’ daughter with tales of plays gone by. Burbage was notably adept at reciting the scripts.  

After the sudden and shocking death of Burbage, his friends grapple with their own mortality as well as the idea that Shakespeare’s works could fade into the ether. Not wanting their friend’s artistry to be further diluted, they eventually set out to assemble his plays into a book. The group faces difficulties along their journey to publication, accepting assistance from unlikely places. In the end, their work pays off and the collection of Shakespeare’s work comes to fruition. 

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The storyline was easy to follow and gripping from the moment it began. The admiration that the cast of characters has for Shakespeare is immediately apparent and doesn’t come across as forced. The passion and zealous nature of the story practically emanate from the stage. Everything was natural and heartfelt. There were instances in which scenes went on a tad too long, but overall, the general flow of the plot was properly executed.  

Performance: 4.5/5 

The performances in the play were superb.  Jack Cirillo gave a dynamic performance as Burbage, while Jimi Lee gave an inspiring performance as Condell; additionally, George Kinley delivered a particularly heartfelt and moving performance as Heminges. Nikki Riniti’s portrayal of Alice Heminge, meanwhile, was also lovely. The most humorous performances, though, were Jacob Gillispie as William Jaggard and Michael Martin as Ben Johnson. Gillispie’s performance was especially memorable, as he really transformed into the character. From the moment he walked onto the stage with a cane sporting a unique comedic voice, the audience was in stitches. His coarse language and smug demeanor contributed to a fascinating character. Martin, on the other hand, portrayed Ben in a charismatic way. They captured the arrogance of Ben and the complex relationship between him and Shakespeare. The character’s drunken stumbling and rambunctious nature was incredibly entertaining.

The performances felt real. The actors had brilliant chemistry, and their interactions with one another had a genuine feel to them. Kinley’s performance in particular has stayed with me. There was so much emotion behind every word he said. His ability to emote and use his voice to capture his internal turmoil was rather impactful.

Production: 4/5

The production accompanied the time period very well. It was rustic and simple, but the set heightened the story and use of language. A notable moment was during the scene when the book was being made. The rhythmic sound of hammering and the use of a spotlight created an electric atmosphere. The sound design and use of voice-over also added striking elements to the already engaging play at certain points. Everything came together and produced a believable period piece.

Total: 12.5/15 | The riveting plot coupled with the captivating performances created a play that was worthwhile and honoring Shakespeare.

 

Correction: The director of the play was Leah Turley.

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