Wednesday, March 2, 2016

reviews - WITTENBERG - Southwest Shakespeare Company

Marshall Glass and David Dickinson
photo: Patrick Walsh
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through March 12th.

 "David Davalos' Wittenberg is a humorous prequel, of sorts, to Shakespeare's Hamlet, the story of Martin Luther, and Christopher Marlowe's play Doctor Faustus. Full of witty word play, Davalos has taken the nugget of information that Shakespeare dispersed in his play concerning Wittenberg being Hamlet's alma mater, and where he was present when he received the news of his father's death, as his launching pad for this inspired play. When Davalos remembered that Dr. John Faustus taught at Wittenberg before his deal with the devil and that Martin Luther was a professor of theology at the school before he started the Protestant Reformation, he was able to create an intriguing historical comedy that places all three men at the German college at the same time. Southwest Shakespeare presents the local premiere of the 2008 play in an exceptionally cast and well-directed production featuring fiery barbs and pitting philosophy against theology....Having some knowledge of these three men helps to get the jokes, names, and references, but even if you only know a little about them, the easy to understand language enables those of us who aren't highly intellectual scholars to fully comprehend the themes and ideas Davalos brings up....Kent Burnham's savvy direction is matched by a cast that smartly, and humorously, portrays these famous characters, warts and all. As Faustus, David Dickinson is charming, feisty, argumentative and full of life....Marshall Glass is introspective as Luther.....Luther is saddened and torn and Glass exhibits those conflicted feelings exceptionally. William Wilson is equally adept at portraying the conflict that Hamlet faces, both in his nightmares and in his waking life. While Wilson is a gifted comic and delivers his many humorous lines with a natural ease, his final scene, as Hamlet has received news of his father's death, is serious, and delivered so well that it makes me hope to see Wilson play Hamlet in Shakespeare's tragedy one day. Allison Sell portrays four very different women with aplomb. ...Burnham's sharp direction never falters in ensuring the humorous moments land yet adds a stirring relevance to the dramatic ones as well. ..Zany and thought-provoking aren't two descriptions that usually go together, yet the smartly written Wittenberg manages to be both and it also doesn't require you to have a philosophy or theology degree to easily comprehend the ideas, themes, and debates the play raises. Southwest Shakespeare Company's production has a gifted cast, clear direction, and excellent creative aspects and the end result is charming, intellectual, confident and inspiring, yet also extremely hilarious."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"If you’re a fan of Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” you won’t want to miss Southwest Shakespeare Company’s production of “Wittenberg.” ...imagines a fascinating backstory for two fictional characters, Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, and one real-life one, Martin Luther, the original Protestant....With wittily anachronistic references to psychoanalysis and Timothy Leary, this is a play that mixes provocative cultural criticism with groaner puns and a faux-steamy sex scene set to text from the Bible..." - Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic (click here to read the complete review)

"Before Hamlet's plunge into depression, Faust's deal with the Devil, and Luther's excommunication, there was Wittenberg ~ presumably! In a work of literary mastery and divinely-inspired imagination, David Davalos presumes, and he conjures a cosmic convergence of iconic figures in WITTENBERG that is as finely threaded as the tapestries that embrace Patrick Walsh's meticulously designed set....The cast of Southwest Shakespeare Company's current production of WITTENBERG, astutely directed by Kent Burnham, more than rises to the challenge. Here's an ensemble devoutly to be wished, teeming with comedic energy and versatility ~ David Dickinson as Faustus, Marshall Glass as Luther, William Wilson as Hamlet, and Allison Sell as The Eternal Feminine. At the heart and soul of the comedy is an impassioned debate between reason and faith....Hamlet enters the mix as a matriculating student. Faustus and Luther enjoin him to select a major that fits their personal preferences. The Dane, however, is confused ("his brain is strained") about what path to choose as his worldview has been cast in doubt. Before arriving at Wittenberg, he studied with Copernicus whose heliocentric theory of the universe, he believes, must cast doubt on all the Church's teachings. What to do? It is in the lively jousting and volley of ideas and in the emerging epiphanies that WITTENBERG revels. Dickinson, Glass, and Wilson are phenomenal ~ richly, crisply, and believably channeling their characters. Ms. Sell ...demonstrates once again her remarkable versatility.... Director Burnham and cast excel in honoring the author's intention. Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!"  -Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)

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