Her Majesty’s Will

May 26 – July 16, 2017
Thu & Fri at 7:30pm, Sat at 4pm & 8pm, Sun at 4pm

3.5 STARS. Well-honed adaptation… smart and supple direction… high-spirited cast… provides an uplifting homage to how common people find uncommon reserves of poetry, courage, wit and honor in times of unrest.”  –Chicago Tribune

“This animated adventure story, filled with intrigue, passion and wild sword fights will thrill even the most jaded Shakespeare scholar and will inspire many others to read Blixt’s original novel”  –Chicago Theatre Review

“With strong direction and fight design, a great story and two excellent leading men, Her Majesty’s Will is a wonderful choice for a hot summer night.”  –Chicago Theater Beat

Young William Shakespeare is hiding from the law in rural Lancashire, languishing as a simple school master. Christopher Marlowe is living the high life as a spy for the Crown. When a dastardly plot to assassinate the Queen draws these two unforgettable wits together, Will is swept up in a world of intrigue, treachery, and mayhem in an adventure that will define the rest of his life — if he can only manage to save Her Majesty. An irreverent comedy that imagines Shakespeare’s “lost years” as a rousing romp through the streets and across the stages of Elizabethan London, in a world premiere based on the 2013 novel by Chicago author David Blixt.

A world premiere based on the novel by David Blixt 
Adapted by Robert Kauzlaric 
Directed by Chris Hainsworth

Special Performance:
Open Captioning PLUS Audio Description/Touch Tour
Saturday, June 17
   Touch tour: 2:30pm
   Performance: 4:00pm

Visit our Accessibility page for more information.

Highlights from Her Majesty’s Will. Music by Jeffrey Levin. 

  • Don Bender (Sir Francis Walsingham and Ensemble)

    Previously at Lifeline, Don has appeared in The Killer AngelsThe City & The CityThe Woman in WhitePride and PrejudiceThe Count of Monte CristoThe Picture of Dorian Gray, and The Mark of Zorro. He was last seen in Stage Left’s Midwest Premiere of The Body of an American. Over the last thirty years, he has worked with such companies as Writers Theatre, TimeLine, Shattered Globe, Eclipse, Silk Road, and the Hypocrites. He received a Non-Equity Jeff Nomination for his performance in City Lit’s production of Old Times.

  • Bryan Bosque (Christopher Marlowe)

    Bryan is honored to work with the Lifeline family once again, having previously participated in ThumbelinaLions in Illyria, and The Three Musketeers. Chicago credits include Prowess (Jackalope Theatre, u/s); The Compass (Steppenwolf for Young Adults); The Grown-Up (Shattered Globe Theatre); Harry and the Thief (Pavement Group); and Barbecue Apocalypse and The Deer (The Ruckus). Bryan works with Barrel of Monkeys and is represented by Lily’s Talent.

  • Heather Chrisler (Chorus, Lady Helena, Emily Ball, and Ensemble)

    Heather is an artistic associate at First Folio Theatre, where she was most recently seen as Arabella Bishop in the world premiere of Captain Blood, and has also been seen as Virginia Poe in The Madness of Edgar Allan Poe. Chicago credits include Rutherford’s Travels (Pegasus), good friday (Oracle, Non-Equity Jeff nomination: Best Ensemble), and All’s Well that Ends Well (Stage Left). Regional credits include Dancing Lessons(Riverside Theatre, IA), Romeo and Juliet (Door Shakespeare, WI), The Three Musketeers and A Christmas Carol (Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, OH), and Much Ado About Nothing and Blithe Spirit (Monomoy Theatre, RI). Heather appeared in Season Three of Chicago PD (NBC) and she holds an MFA from Ohio University. She thanks everyone for coming to Her Majesty’s Will and wishes you all a delightful time!

  • Dan Cobbler (Dick Tarlton, Sir Thomas Lucy, and Ensemble)

    Dan is pumped to be making his Lifeline Theatre debut in Her Majesty’s Will. Recent Chicago credits include: Cymbeline (Strawdog Theatre Company), 100 Hauntings (Free Street Theater), and Julius Caesar(Brown Paper Box Co.). He received his MFA from The Theatre School at DePaul University.

  • Javier Ferreira (William Shakespeare)

    Javier is thrilled to be returning to the Lifeline stage! Previous Lifeline credits include A Wrinkle in Time and Northanger Abbey. Other Chicago credits: Wicked City (Chicago Theatre Workshop); Another Word for Beauty (u/s – Goodman Theatre); Sweeney Todd and Babes in Arms(Porchlight Music Theatre); La Cage Aux Folles (Marriott); Julius Caesar(Chicago Shakespeare); Lysistrata JonesRipper, and Amadeus(Roosevelt’s Theatre Conservatory). Favorite regional credits: CarouselCatch Me If You CanAvenue QRent (Wagon Wheel Theatre, IN); Sweeney Todd and Titanic (Second Stage Theatre Company, Minneapolis, MN). Javier graduated from Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts with a Musical Theatre BFA. Love and thanks to Mom. Sui Generis!

  • Peter Greenberg (Robert Greene and Ensemble)

    Peter is familiar to Lifeline audiences for roles including Rochester (Jane Eyre), Phileas Fogg (Around the World in 80 Days ), Tristram Shield (The Talisman Ring ), Lord Peter Wimsey, and many others. He is a member of the Lifeline artistic ensemble and has also directed and adapted here. Before coming to Chicago, Peter worked extensively in regional theater on everything from Shakespeare and Moliere to Sam Shepard and Neil Simon, and he co-founded the Actors Shakespeare Company in Albany, New York.

  • LaQuin Groves (John Savage and Ensemble)

    LaQuin is very excited to be working with Lifeline Theatre for a second time. Chicago credits include Miss Holmes (Lifeline), Incident on Run 1217(Factory Theater), American Notes (Will Act For Food), and Frankenstein in Love (Will Act For Food). Regional credits include Children of Eden(Music Theater West), the Beast in Disney’s West Coast premiere of Beauty and the Beast (Theatrical Arts International), and Honk! (San Gabriel Civic Light Opera and Music Theatre Wichita). LaQuin was a company member for Performance Riverside in California for many years where he performed in Man of La ManchaFiddler on the RoofA Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, and Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

  • Martel Manning (John Lyly and Ensemble)

    Martel is so happy to be returning to Lifeline Theatre. He was previously seen in Lifeline’s Miss Buncle’s Book. Other Chicago credits include: Belarius in Cymbeline (Strawdog Theatre); Harold in Pirandello’s Henry IV(Remy Bumppo Theatre); Tom in The Grapes of Wrath and Rivers/Murderer 1 in Richard III (The Gift Theatre). Martel holds an MFA in Acting from The University of Houston Professional Actor Training Program.

  • Mike Ooi (Cutting Ball and Ensemble)

    Mike is delighted to return to Lifeline, where his credits include The Three MusketeersNeverwhereThe Mark of Zorro, and several KidSeries shows. Other Chicago credits include Motel 666 and Deathscribe (Wildclaw Theatre); The Arsonists and Old Town (Strawdog); RenFaire!Black & Blue1985, and Mop Top Festival (Factory Theater); Star WitnessCurse of the Crying Heart, and Cave with Man (House Theatre); SparkSinbad: The Untold Tale, and Ghosts of Treasure Island (Adventure Stage). TV credits include NBC’s Chicago Fire. Mike is a proud company member of the Factory Theater. He is represented by Paonessa Talent.

  • Justin Harner (Understudy)

    Justin is thrilled to be working with Lifeline Theatre. Favorite Chicago credits include: Larry in [title of show] (Brown Paper Box Co.); Jordy in WILD (Kid Brooklyn Productions); Boy in Erica Barnes’ adaptation of David Lehman’s Mythologies; Casca in Caesura: A Butchery (The Plagiarists); and Third Man in The Baltimore Waltz (BPBC). He is an Artistic Associate of Brown Paper Box Co. and an alumnus of Indiana University Bloomington.

  • Maggie Patchett (Understudy)

    Maggie is thrilled to be making her professional debut here at Lifeline! Favorite educational roles include Ophelia in Hamlet and Sophia in Good Friday. Maggie is a proud graduate of Illinois Wesleyan University.

  • Cole Simon (Understudy)

    Cole has been a theatre/film/photo maker in Chicago since 2009. During his time here, he’s worked as a youth director and writer with The Actors Gymnasium, where he studied physical theatre and adagio. Past company credits include The Goodman, Lakeside Shakespeare, The House Theatre, and Metropolis Performing Arts Center among others. He relishes working at Lifeline for the first time.

  • Sean Sinitski (Understudy)

    Sean was a member of the late Defiant Theatre, where he performed such roles as Hamlet, Macduff, and a guy that got his thumb stolen in Action Movie: the Play! Other Chicago credits: Miss Buncle’s BookA Tale of Two CitiesThe Killer AngelsThe Three MusketeersThe MoonstoneNeverwhereTreasure IslandThe Picture of Dorian Gray (Lifeline); All’s Well that Ends WellRabbitFellow Travelers (Stage Left); Timon of AthensThe Madness of King George (Chicago Shakespeare); The Merchant of VeniceDetective StoryThe Cherry Orchard (Strawdog); EndgameHenry VBalm in Gilead (Hypocrites); Back of the ThroatCaravaggio (Silk Road).

  • Tony St. Clair (Understudy)

    Tony’s last stage appearance was as the malfeasant Colonel Lewis in the Agency’s production of Skin for Skin. Previously, he was in Akvavit’s production of The Orchestra, where he played the addled Halla. He’s also collaborated with Steep, Awkward Pause, WildClaw, Collaboraction, and other Chicago theaters, while also performing sketch comedy in the Chicago Sketch Fest with The Third Floor and Dark Eyed Strangers groups, and he was a touring stand-up comic for several years. You may have also seen him in commercials for Danner Boots, Suzuki motorcycles, and others. He couldn’t be happier working with such a talented cast and crew in this Lifeline production.

  • Robert Kauzlaric (Adaptor)

    Robert is a proud member of Lifeline’s artistic ensemble. He has written more than a dozen theatrical adaptations, which have been performed in over 40 U.S. states, as well as in England, Ireland, Canada, and Australia. Previous Lifeline adaptations include The Island of Dr. Moreau (Non-Equity Jeff Awards: Best Production-Play and New Adaptation), Neverwhere(Non-Equity Jeff Award: New Adaptation), The MoonstoneThe Three Musketeers (originally commissioned for the 2010 Illinois Shakespeare Festival), Northanger Abbey (with George Howe), The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! (with Paul Gilvary & William Rush), Lions in Illyria, and Mr. Popper’s Penguins (with George Howe).

  • Chris Hainsworth (Director)

    A proud ensemble member since 2010, Chris makes his Lifeline directorial debut with Her Majesty’s Will. He has had three Mainstage adaptations performed (HungerMonstrous Regiment, and Midnight Cowboy) and one KidSeries (Fable-ous!). Favorite Lifeline roles include The Marquis in Neverwhere, Edmond Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo, and Mycroft Holmes in Miss Holmes. Chris has also been seen performing with The House, the side project, Irish Theatre of Chicago, WildClaw, and Strawdog, among others.

  • Kate Reed (Stage Manager)

    Kate is excited to be working with Lifeline again after most recently stage managing Fable-ous! Previously at Lifeline, she has worked on Fillet of Solo 2015 and 2016, Northanger AbbeyLester’s Dreadful SweatersMr. Popper’s PenguinsSoon I Will Be InvincibleOne Came HomeJane Eyre, and Monstrous Regiment. Her other Chicago area credits include work with The Side Project, the Northwestern University Theatre and Interpretation Center, and The Fine Print Theatre Company. She has a degree in Performance Studies from Northwestern.

  • Aly Renee Amidei (Costume Designer)

    Aly Renee Amidei has been a designer and playwright in Chicago since 2000, with a focus on designing for new work and re-envisioned classics. She is a proud Lifeline company member and is the Assistant Professor of Costume Design at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.

  • David Blixt (Fight Director)

    David is the Resident Fight Director at the Michigan Shakespeare Festival and A Crew of Patches Theatre Company in Chicago, choreographing fights for most of Shakespeare’s canon, including MacbethHenry IVOthelloRomeo & JulietMacbethCymbeline, and Julius Caesar. Other fight direction credits include Steppenwolf (The Brother/Sister Plays), The Shakespeare Theatre of Washington, DC (King Lear), Hope Summer Rep (Romeo & Juliet), First Folio (MacbethRomeo & Juliet), Rivendell (Dry LandGrizzly Mama), InFusion (Fight Girl-Battle World), and Defiant (A Clockwork Orange). David was nominated for an Equity Jeff Award for Fight Direction for the Artistic Home’s production of Macbeth, and his violence will soon be seen in the film Coming To You. David is the Resident Stage Combat Instructor at the Chicago High School For The Arts.

  • Diane D. Fairchild (Lighting Designer)

    Previous designs with Lifeline: Fable-ous!Northanger AbbeyLester’s Dreadful SweatersOne Came HomeVelveteen Rabbit (2014), and A Tale of Two Cities. Other recent Chicago credits include work with Victory Gardens, Raven Theater, Piven Theater, Theatre Wit, and Wheaton College.

  • Morgan Gire (Assistant Stage Manager)

    Morgan is thrilled to be back Assistant Stage Managing for Lifeline. Earlier this season, she worked with Lifeline on Miss Holmes and the Fillet of Solo Festival. She has had the great fortune of working with such wonderful companies as Factory Theater, Awkward Pause Theatre, Strawdog’s Hugen Hall, Adventure Stage Chicago, TEDx, Iowa Summer Rep, and Nothing Special Productions where she is a company member and major contributor for Fight Night.

  • Eleanor Kahn (Scenic Designer)

    Eleanor is a freelance designer in Chicago. Previous scenic work includes: Hairy ApeThe MotherThe Jungle, and Waiting for Lefty (Oracle Productions); What of the Night (Stage Left and Cor Theatre); Bobbie Clearly (Steep Theatre); Deer and the Lovers and World Builders (First Floor Theatre); The Way She Spoke (Greenhouse Solo Celebration); The Van Gogh CafeFog IslandMonster in the Hall, and Lifeboat (Filament Theatre). She also works extensively with The House Theatre as a props designer. Eleanor received her MFA in Scenic Design from Boston University. Her full resume and portfolio can be seen at www.eleanorkahn.com.

  • Jeffrey Levin (Original Music & Sound Designer)

    Jeffrey is a composer, sound designer, and musician based in Chicago and happy to be making is Lifeline Theatre debut. Some favorite Chicago credits include The Hairy Ape (Oracle, Non-Equity Jeff Award: Sound Design), Hookman (Steep), What of the Night (Cor and Stage Left), Haven Place (A Red Orchid), The Long Christmas Ride Home (Strawdog, Non-Equity Jeff nomination: Sound Design), Octagon (Jackalope). Regional credits include Hope Summer Repertory (Holland, MI), Gulfshore Playhouse (Naples, FL), and Children’s Theatre Madison. Masters of Music DePaul University and Bachelors of Music Columbia College Chicago. www.jeffreylevinmusic.com

  • Alec Long (Properties Designer)

    Her Majesty’s Will is Alec’s debut at LifeLine Theatre. His other credits include: Roz and RayA Wonder in My SoulNative Garden (Victory Gardens); Chagrin Falls (The Agency); The Room (A Red Orchid); The Grapes of Wrath (The Gift); Mosque Alert (Silk Road Rising); The Comedy of Errors (Commission Theatre); The Columnist and Dutchman/TRANSit (American Blues). In addition to being a theatre artist, Alec is a painter and carpenter.

  • Caitlin McManus (Assistant Director)

    Caitlin is jazzed to be working with Lifeline for the first time. A recent graduate of Illinois Wesleyan University, her regional credits include assistant direction for The Fairy Queen (Chicago Opera Theatre), and the Jeff Recommended good friday (Oracle Productions). Caitlin also served as an apprentice for Lakeside Shakespeare Theatre. LST credits include Taming of the Shrew (Biondello), Cymbeline (Queen’s Lady), Twelfth Night (Valentine), and Richard III (Messenger).

  • Annaliese McSweeney (Dramaturg)

    Annaliese is delighted to be working with Lifeline again after previously working on Miss Buncle’s Book. Other Chicago credits include: The Bottle Tree (2016), The New Deal (2016), The Body of an American (2016), and All’s Well That Ends Well (2015) for Stage Left, where she is the Associate Literary Manager and an Ensemble member; Mosque Alert (Silk Road Rising); The White RoadShining CityLay Me Down Softly (Irish Theatre of Chicago); In the Garden and The Little Prince (Lookingglass Theatre). She holds a BA from Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame and an M. Phil from Trinity College, Dublin.

  • Sarah Merrill (Assistant Properties Designer)

    Sarah is incredibly excited to be joining Lifeline for the first time! She is still new to Chicagoland and was a recent Prop Intern at Chicago Shakespeare. In Spring 2016, Sarah received a BA in Theatre with a Scenic Design emphasis from Hope College in Holland, Michigan.

  • Sarah Scanlon (Assistant Director)

    Sarah was last seen at Lifeline as Elphin in Soon I Will Be Invincible. Throughout Chicago she has been seen on stage, aerial dancing, or playing music with Factory Theater, Akvavit Theatre, The Side Project, WildClaw, Redmoon, and The Building Stage, among others, and is also an artistic associate with the Strange Tree Group. Regional and international credits include Ariel in The Tempest with the Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival and projects with The American Repertory Theatre, The Kalamazoo Symphony, The NY Fringe, and the Moscow Art Theatre. She holds an M.F.A. in Acting from the American Repertory Theatre and The Moscow Art Theatre School.

, http://footlights.com/media/1702968/lifelinetheatre_hermajestyswill.pdf,

From the Chicago Tribune

‘Her Majesty’s Will’ is a heady, silly romp that works 
June 7, 2017 
By Kerry Reid

3.5 out of 4 stars

Nature may abhor a vacuum, but holes in the timeline offer catnip to authors of historical fiction. Where facts cannot be found, imagination runs wild.

In “Her Majesty’s Will,” David Blixt’s imagination takes us on a romp through the so-called “Lost Years” of William Shakespeare — that period from roughly 1578 to 1592 in which (other than the record of his marriage to Anne Hathaway and the birth of their children), practically nothing is known of his life. In his 2012 novel, Blixt (who is also a Chicago-based actor and fight director) tosses Will into the world of high-stakes espionage and London lowlifes. For good measure, he also tosses in Christopher Marlowe.

It’s a nearly perfect choice for Lifeline Theatre, whose best productions often include wink-and-a-nod approaches to classic storytelling tropes. In Robert Kauzlaric’s adaptation, directed by Chris Hainsworth, Blixt’s wild ride shows young Will Falstaff (as he’s been calling himself) finding his voice as a man and artist, even as he assumes many different guises in order to survive.

Shakespearean in-jokes abound — someone actually does “exit, pursued by a bear,” as in the famous stage direction from “A Winter’s Tale.” Amid the political intrigue, the story also tosses in same-sex attraction, feminist moxie and plenty of inventive stage fights. (Blixt created the latter, and if you’ve ever wanted to see tankards vs. swords in a pub fight, this is your show.)

And somehow, it all comes together in a mix that manages to be heady and silly in equal measure. There are moments that strain toward profundity, and it takes a little while in the first act for the narrative and the production to find the balance in the tone. But Kauzlaric’s well-honed adaptation and Hainsworth’s smart and supple direction, along with a high-spirited cast, move the entire affair along with deft precision, almost never letting us get ahead of the twists in the story.

That story begins with Will in Lancashire, working as a put-upon schoolmaster. A chance encounter with a serving woman being manhandled by a pair of rogues sets him off on his road trip to London. The serving woman turns out to be “Kit” Marlowe, who has uncovered secret messages from Mary Queen of Scots to Catholic rebels bent on overthrowing Protestant Elizabeth I.

With the rebels in pursuit, the two men make their way to London, where an unlikely potpourri of Marlowe’s fellow carousing men of letters, theater folks and courtiers become ensnared in the plot. There are also a couple of plays-within-the-play that let us see where Shakespeare lifted and refined some of his own stories and devices.

In the tradition of all great buddy escapades, amid the plot twists lies a fine bromance (well, a bit more than that, actually). Javier Ferreira’s Will, entranced by the streets and stages of London, moves from an earnest schoolteacher haunted by memories of his loutish father to a man who trusts his own will and heart. Bryan Bosque’s charming but maddening Marlowe shows flashes of warmhearted loyalty amid his preening. (“I always win,” he declares at one point. “That’s what makes being me so satisfying.”)

The rest of the cast, who all play multiple roles, deliver fluid and cunning turns running the gamut of London society, from dastardly nobles to put-upon showfolk. Heather Chrisler especially holds her own as the only woman in the cast, playing the chorus/narrator, a pair of very different pub maids and a lady-in-waiting to the queen, who doesn’t rely upon her corset to stand proud. (Aly Renee Amidei’s costumes provide period detail and eye candy galore.)

Admittedly, the show probably offers a few more treats for people who know their Shakespeare. (An Earl of Oxford joke might sail over the heads of those unacquainted with the “authorship” debate.) But even those unaffected by Bardolatry will find much to enjoy in “Her Majesty’s Will.” By the end, Blixt’s tale provides an uplifting homage to how common people find uncommon reserves of poetry, courage, wit and honor in times of unrest.

From Chicago Theater Beat

World premiere is pure summer escapism 
June 21, 2017 
By Lauren Whalen

3.5 out of 4 stars

For all we know of William Shakespeare, several years of the iconic playwright’s early life remain a mystery. In his novel Her Majesty’s Will, Chicago author, actor and fight choreographer David Blixt imagines Shakespeare’s “lost years” as a swashbuckling adventure full of intrigue, mystery – and a friendship with fellow future playwright Christopher Marlowe. Lifeline Theatre’s adaptation – for which Blixt provides the violence design – is an Elizabethan spy caper and buddy flick. In their quest to protect the Queen, Shakespeare and Marlowe trade barbs, fight evil and, quite possibly, fall in love. Featuring two dynamic leads, exciting fight scenes and fantastic direction, Her Majesty’s Will is pure literary escapism, a smooth summer treat in period garb.

Javier Ferreira and Bryan Bosque star as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe in Her Majesty’s Will, Lifeline Young Will (Javier Ferreira) is marooned in Lancashire, a wanted man in London for mysterious reasons. Living under an assumed name, he’s teaching reluctant students, bored out of his mind. Will’s always been intrigued by theater, but doesn’t have the formal education to even consider a career on the boards. Enter Marlowe (Bryan Bosque), who’s daring and charismatic where Will is straitlaced and reserved. When Marlowe offers Will a diversion in the form of espionage – God save the Queen – Will jumps at the chance, proving himself able with a sword and drawn in by Marlowe’s charms. But is Marlowe all he seems?

Beautifully adapted by Jeff Award-winner Robert Kauzlaric, Blixt’s plotting and characterization are inventive and inspired. Though the Shakespearean references get a little precious at times, the idea of Shakespeare and Marlowe as good friends and partners in crime is delicious. Their evasion of the dastardly Sir Thomas Lucy (Dan Cobbler) and bumbling through onstage roles, among other escapades, are funny and charming. Though Will is the protagonist, Marlowe is also relatable, displaying vulnerability and passion under his glib exterior. The two are surrounded by a quirky assembly of characters, from the boorish Cutting Ball (a hilarious, scene-stealing Mike Ooi) to elegant, witty lady-in-waiting Helena (Heather Chrisler, who also provides narration in a gorgeous speaking voice).

Though the script could be trimmed, Lifeline ensemble member Chris Hainsworth keeps the action running at a steady, fun pace, and Blixt’s fight choreography is as graceful as it is cutting. Scenic designer Eleanor Kahn keeps things simple with multiple levels and building block-like structures that move easily, and Aly Renee Amidei’s costumes are both lovely and era-appropriate.

Nonetheless, this is a show that belongs to young Shakespeare and Marlowe: the scrappers they were, and the controversial geniuses they’ll become. Casting director Lavina Jadhwani chose wisely and well with Ferreira and Bosque: Ferreira’s journey from uncertain to heroic is a compelling one, and his scene in which Will views his first play is incredibly memorable. Bosque is a willing foil, able and sharp, quick with his words and roguishly rash.

Shakespeare and Marlowe are immortalized through their plays, and though it’s historical fiction, through Her Majesty’s Will, we get a glimpse into the bold young men they once were. Lifeline’s world premiere is a pleasure from beginning to end: lighthearted with just enough heft to keep it from floating away. With strong direction and fight design, a great story and two excellent leading men, Her Majesty’s Will is a wonderful choice for a hot summer night.

From Chicago Stage Standard

Shakespearean Romp 
June 10, 2017 
By Angela Allyn

4 out of 4 stars

What Lifeline Theatre has always been able to do as well as anyone in the world is take a handful of talented actors and conjure a bustling city or another universe in the small storefront space down a narrow lane. Lifeline is like a Tardis. It is an immersive theatrical experience where the only aisle for the seating is a main entrance for the actors and the intimate space keeps you on top of the action, as in the best of all Chicago storefront theaters . Whether creating a civil war army or a dystopian future metropolis, Lifeline can take a book and bring it to breathless life and make you forget you are sitting in a ice cold exposed brick walled box. In Her Majesty’s Will, now on the boards, director Chris Hainsworth transports us back to Shakespeare’s lost years.

Adapting the historical fiction book of the same name by David Blixt, an ensemble of nine actors creates rural Lancashire to seething London, in a swashbuckling tale of intrigue and ambition. There are clever costumes by Renee Amidei and Eleanor Kahn’s simple set of a rolling box, a rolling gate, some stairs and a bridge that come to represent everything from the Tower of London to a runaway royal carriage. The plot of the show has Shakespeare, played by an earnest Javier Ferreira, school teaching under the assumed name of Falstaff, hiding from Sir Thomas Lucy who wants him for a murder in Stratford. Shakespeare/Falstaff saves the life of Kit Marlowe, played with effeminate cunning by Bryan Bosque. This tale posits an eventual romantic liaison between the two, but not before this road movie of a storyline has them scheming to save the queen from a murder plot. As the show progresses, cast members morph into a cast of thousands. Particular standout is Heather Chrisler who is our narrator, the criminal Em Ball and a lady in waiting to Queen Elizabeth herself. Every member of this productions is top notch. And as to be expected from a novel written by a fight choreographer, who returns to stage the violence for his own adapted work,there is lots and lots of fighting: fists and swords regularly punctuate post scene shifts.

Robert Kauzlaric, who adapted this book for the stage, is to be commended for creating a fast moving, emotionally resonant story that you will revel in. It is a testament to following your gifts, taking risks and living your destiny as you find your identity.

From Theater Mania

Lifeline Theatre finds merriment in Shakespeare’s “lost years.” 
June 8, 2017 
By Adelaide Lee

Though William Shakespeare’s plays have cemented his status in the Western literary canon, his life is a bit of a cypher. There’s no shortage of speculation on his biography, ranging from the driest scholastic tomes to the occasional blockbuster movie. If you want a thoughtful and plausible examination of Shakespeare’s life, keep looking. Her Majesty’s Will, now playing at Lifeline Theatre, is simply good fun, as broad and goofy as the pun in the title.

When pastoral schoolteacher Will Shakespeare (Javier Ferreira) impulsively comes to the aid of a damsel in distress, he finds that she is more than she seems, and Shakespeare is soon swept up in a madcap adventure at the side of the young Christopher “Kit” Marlowe (Bryan Bosque), a spy in the service of the Throne. Will and Kit fight and flirt their way in and out of trouble, stumbling onto the Babington Plot and quite possibly saving England in the process.

The play, adapted by Robert Kauzlaric from the book of the same name by David Blixt (who also serves as fight director for the production), is well-researched and displays a clear love of the subject matter. Devoted fans of the Bard will find plenty of winking references to his works, and lovers of Elizabethan times will delight in the lively characters drawn from history, including the hedonistic scholar Robert Greene (a raucous Peter Greenberg), Helena of Snakenborg, Marchioness of Northampton (played with stoic regality by Heather Chrisler), and a very funny appearance by Dick Tarlton (Dan Cobbler), the famous clown beloved by Queen Elizabeth I. Dressed in rich period Elizabethan costume by Aly Renee Amidei, the energetic ensemble serves double and often triple duty as players, priests, spies, and street toughs, creating a full and vibrant world for the protagonists to pratfall through.

Ferreira and Bosque make a great comic duo. Though Shakespeare and Marlowe get more intimate than Hope and Crosby ever did, they share a similar on-the-road patter. Bosque especially excels in fight scenes and chase sequences, throwing himself around the stage with seemingly endless energy, like an impish Bugs Bunny. Ferreira is a bit more grounded as Shakespeare; deftly playing the transition from overwhelmed Stratford bumpkin to the wily man whose work would change English culture forever.

Chris Hainsworth’s buoyant direction has its actors leaping and crawling up, down, through, and over Eleanor Kahn’s deceptively simple set. The bare Elizabethan stairs and walkways provide a perfect jungle gym for farcical chase scenes and exhilarating brawls, crafted with aplomb by Blixt.

Her Majesty’s Will is a bawdy, swashbuckling confection where the bad guys are terribly bad and the good guys will stop at nothing to protect Queen and country. It puts on no airs of presenting the likely facts of Shakespeare’s lost years, preferring instead to imagine the most fabulous scenario possible. Given a choice between the truth and this delightful fable, audience members can’t go wrong seeing Her Majesty’s Will.

From Chicago Theatre Review

Shakespeare and Marlowe’s Wild Adventures 
June 8, 2017 
By Colin Douglas

Teaching at an unpromising academy for boys in rural Lancaster, the schoolmaster is soon discovered to actually be a fugitive hiding out from the injustice of English law. He introduces himself as Will Falstaff, but in reality we’re meeting a young William Shakespeare, long before the start of his impressive theatrical and literary career. Suddenly Will finds himself embroiled in a noisy brouhaha outside the classroom doors, compelling Schoolmaster Falstaff to rescue a young woman from a couple of Elizabethan goons.

The lady, however, turns out to be no lady at all, but a high-spirited, courageous, handsome young man named Christopher Marlowe. Kit is in disguise because he’s secretly in the employ of Sir Edward Walsingham, the director of Queen Elizabeth’s secret service. The youth, it seems, has discovered a plot by English Papists to assassinate the reigning monarch and replace the Queen with her Catholic cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots. Marlowe argues that, because of his intervention, Will is now in danger for saving him. Kit convinces Will that together they must make a hasty retreat to London.

And thus Robert Kauzlaric’s dramatic adaptation of Chicago author/actor David Blixt’s historical novel, becomes a comical Elizabethan buddy drama. It’s a play filled with adventure, swordplay and moments of unexpected romance between Will and Kit. Imagining Shakespeare’s “lost years,” this play is like like one of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby’s iconic road movies, but with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Errol Flynn in the leading roles. It’s full of risky plot twists and impending peril, but there’s also the kind of humor found in “The Princess Bride.” These two likable, charismatic young men encounter dozens of quirky, often dangerous characters along the way. New to the big city of Tudor London, Will takes an unexpected liking to its menace and corruption. He finds titillation and enjoyment in associating with beggars and criminals, lowlifes and loose cannons, far more than the company of the court. In being Kit Marlowe’s comrade and companion, Will is converted into becoming another spy for the Crown. Eventually the two make their way to the Elizabethan theatre scene and onto the stage.

Lifeline Theatre ensemble member Chris Hainsworth directs this world premiere with relish and a particular flair for staging the kind of story that features a pair of headstrong protagonists and an eccentric ensemble of supporting players. As always with this company, Kauzlaric’s comic adventure sprawls across the intimate Lifeline theatre, up the stage walls and out into the aisles. Scenic designer Eleanor Kahn has created a modest stage setting that’s dominated by an all-purpose, mobile unit that features a door. This flexible scenic piece starts out as Shakespeare’s school, but it transforms, aided by the audience’s imagination, into an inn, the backstage of a London theater and even the royal coach of Lady Helena, the Queen’s lady-in-waiting. There’s also a pair of movable wrought iron gates that appear now and then, as well as an upper level that’s approachable by stairs and ladders.

The cast is a gritty, hardworking ensemble of energetic and versatile actors, most of whom play several roles. Naturally, solo performances by Javier Ferreira, as Will, and Bryan Bosque, as Kit, dominate this story. These two likable actors, particularly Bosque, are brimming with charm and pizzazz. They always keep the ball rolling, even in the play’s rare, quieter moments. But their forte is in the play’s comedic, swashbuckling moments. Will and Kit’s attraction to each other is a bit unexpected but deliciously portrayed; we cheer for their relationship to thrive and prosper and, by every indication during the final curtain, these two will remain loving companions for years to come.

The seven remaining ensemble members is led by lovely, talented Heather Chrisler, who opens the play in the role of the Chorus, our tantalizing hostess. She periodically pops up in this role, but she’s even more delightful as both Lady Helena and Emily, the amiable bar wench. Don Bender makes a humorous, but stuffy Sir Francis Walsingham, among other characters; Don Cobbler plays Will’s villainous, antagonist Sir Thomas Lucy, as well as Dick Tarlton, the lute-playing fool. Peter Greenberg is properly full of himself as Cambridge educated Robert Greene, among others; LaQuin Groves towers over everyone as bully, John Savage, and several other notable personages; Martel Manning is likable as John Lyly and dashing Mike Ooi is hilarious as, along with a raft of other characters, the shifty, guileful Cutting Ball.

Clad in Aly Renee Amidei’s adaptable wardrobe, which suggests Tudor England, without screaming period costumes, this play is exciting and a full of fun. With its G-rated gay romance, this comedy is a timely offering during Pride month. Astute audience members will enjoy recognizing the puns, quotations, character names and play titles—all of which will eventually find their way into the works of the Bard.

Made even more exciting by David Blixt’s carefully choreographed swordplay and combat direction, seasoned with original Elizabethan-sounding music by Jeffrey Levin and nicely lit by Diane D. Fairchild, this animated adventure story, filled with intrigue, passion and wild sword fights will thrill even the most jaded Shakespeare scholar and will inspire many others to read Blixt’s original novel, conveniently for sale in the lobby. Welcome to Shakespeare and Marlowe’ wild adventures!

From Windy City Times

June 14, 2017 
By Mary Shen Barnidge

Some say it all began in 1973 with the novel The Princess Bride, some in 1998 with Shakespeare in Love, and yet others attribute the revival of the sword-and-cloak literary genre to theatrical combat designers weary of applying their skills to the same few plays. Whatever the source, consumers of historical fiction in 2017 can find Elizabethan superstars William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe starring in whodunits, bodice-rippers, glam-camp farces, graphic novels and even cookbooks.

The speculations of fight designer-turned-author David Blixt focus on what literary scholars call “Shakespeare’s lost years,” when the Stratford schoolmaster fled his provincial home and family to emerge less than a decade later in metropolitan London as the favorite playwright of Her Royal Highness Elizabeth I. Young Will’s progress—all purely hypothetical, remember—steers him into the company of bad-boy Oxford-dropout and part-time secret agent “Kit” Marlowe. Other current topics addressed in the text include religious wars, artistic theory, the—um, pliant boundaries of “bromance” and the identity of the mysterious “dark lady” referenced in the sonnets.

Mostly, though, we are catapulted through royal intrigues, thrilling adventures, narrow escapes, intrepid nemeses and unexpected allies, accompanied by plenty of swashbuckling action involving trapdoors, runaway carriages, barroom brawls, rapiers, daggers, punches, grapples and exits with bears in pursuit. Rob Kauzlaric’s adaptation features dialogue incorporating speeches lifted from the Bard’s Greatest Hits, with brief digressions for discussions on the future of the English theater, the fine points of continental fencing techniques and the morphological connection between “Fall-staff” and “Shake-spear.”

This is a dizzying array of moving parts to keep in motion over two and a half hours and, on opening night, director Chris Hainsworth’s narrative pace required a few minutes to achieve optimum velocity ( Bryan Bosque should also tone down Kit’s fey mannerisms sooner ) but, before long, the nine-actor ensemble portraying 22-plus characters, led by Javier Ferreira’s William you-know-who, were swapping personae with protean dexterity, assisted by Jeffrey Levin’s sound design painting an aural picture of an environment well beyond the confines of Eleanor Kahn’s skeletal scaffold-and-wagon scenery.

Summer is the season for Shakespearean romps, whether big-budget ( like that other what-if English-lit fantasy at the Pier ) or planks-and-passion. Don’t wait until the sunshine fades to see this one.

From Picture This Post

A Tall Tale with a Point 
June 9, 2017 
By Jacob Davis

Shakespeare and Marlowe: Dramatists, Poets, Secret Agents

Not since Nick Cage found a treasure map on the back of the Declaration of Independence has there been such an amusing historical fiction action adventure as Her Majesty’s Will. Adapted by Robert Kauzlaric from the 2012 novel by David Blixt, Lifeline Theatre’s latest original work is packed full of hair-raising fight scenes choreographed by Blixt himself, the intricate plotting of spies and criminals in Elizabethan London, alterative origins for early modern poetry’s most famous turns of phrase, and a very historically-informed, albeit totally fictional, account of what made William Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe into the shapers of our language.

A Most Unexpected Meet-Cute

In contrast to the elevated language and expectations set by the Henry V-like Chorus (Heather Chrisler), we first see Shakespeare as a school teacher in Lancashire whose main tactic for controlling his classroom is to beg his students to take him seriously. He’s a great fan of the theatre, despite interacting with it only by reading dramas and watching the traveling troupes that come around from time to time, and he so wishes that other people would see something sublime in him wearing a dress while bellowing odes to the Greek gods. But this apparently sadsack life is disrupted when he uses his ability to convincingly fake mastery with a rapier to rescue a maiden from mysterious attackers. That maiden turns out to be Christopher “Kit” Marlowe in disguise, and he has just stolen a coded paper from Mary, Queen of Scots. Getting that paper to the right person if they don’t get killed first could save the life of Queen Elizabeth, and Shakespeare can hardly resist going on an adventure in London, even if it does put him in grave danger due to a terrible nobleman’s vendetta against him.

Lifeline Theatre Builds the Tudor Era Out of Shadows

As Shakespeare and Marlowe, Javier Ferreira and Bryan Bosque play the leads, and eventually the main romantic couple with great charisma. Ferreira’s Shakespeare is really the show’s only three-dimensional character and it takes until the second act for him to really come into his own. But Bosque’s very flamboyant and occasionally annoying Marlowe is energetic and witty enough to drive the show’s plot until then and entice us, along with Shakespeare, into the colorful underworld of Blixt’s universe. As the show’s tone becomes more serious, so too does the performance of LaQuin Groves in the role of John Savage, the main villain. Starting off as a simple minion baffled by silly tricks, he develops into a terrorist fanatic by the show’s climax, in no small part to Blixt’s swordplay and the mobile set pieces designed by Eleanor Kahn. The show’s other actors demonstrate a similar versatility, as does the design, which morphs fluidly into all the locales of a cutthroat universe.

Why Shakespeare?

Managing to make these varying levels of tone work coherently within the same universe is director Chris Hainsworth. His staging is ingenious, particularly when he finds ways of affording Ferreira some time for introspection amid the various kidnappings, bear-baitings, and chases going on. Ahistorical as the plot is, Blixt’s choice of Shakespeare as a protagonist supplies the heart of the story. Shakespeare created a common culture between aristocrats and pub denizens and insisted on telling stories of his own country on equal footing with those of the classical world.

Blixt and Kazlauric’s script mythologizes how such a person could come to exist. We see Shakespeare take inspiration from Thomas Kyd, the first of England’s Renaissance playwrights, and struggle with how to maintain a healthy sense of pride in his culture while being brutalized by its inequalities and seeing worse happen to those below him in class. With the truth of Shakespeare’s formative years forever lost, Her Majesty’s Will makes for an enjoyable fantasy that distils the meaning of the legend.

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