Where There’s a Will – a review of “The Book of Will”

By Claire DeMarco

Everyone should have friends like Henry Condell (Marc Duchin) and John Heminges (Art DeConciliis).  William Shakespeare did! After his death actors Condell and Heminges often meet with other actors regaling each other with reciting, acting out and conjecturing about Will’s work and the many roles they played.

Richard Burbage (John Reilly), also one of Shakespeare’s actors and supporters is the most vocal about the bard. He enthusiastically pontificates about Will and the roles (especially Hamlet) that he’s performed.  Burbage has more knowledge about all the plays attributed to Shakespeare.

When Burbage dies Condell and Heminges realize the importance of gathering all Shakespeare’s works.  They start a campaign to identify all his writings, collect and retrieve them, eliminate those pirated by other writers and finally publish all of his works in a First Folio.

Supporting this effort were Heminges’ wife, Rebecca (Meighan Lloyd Harding), their daughter, Alice (Amanda Weber) and Condell’s wife, Elizabeth (Stacey Rosleck).

Note:  The females all appear more than supportive with encouragement and actually are seen reading and reviewing the scripts as they are recovered.  I’m not sure this was the case in the 1600’s or that the women could even read, but I’d like to think it was so.

Shakespeare’s legacy lives on.  Thanks to friends like Henry Condell and John Heminges.

Art DeConciliis as John Heminges Photo credit : Hawk Photography and Videography LLC
Henry Condell (Marc Duchin, John Heminges (Art DeConciliis) and Alice Heminges (Amanda Weber) gather in a tavern. Photo credit : Hawk Photography and Videography LLC

Andy Coleman is outstanding as the flamboyant Jonson.  He is hilarious in his “tipsy” scene with Weber.  Without being obnoxiously drunk his delivery is intelligent, controlled and spot on. He transitions easily into a more thoughtful, caring, though at times, belligerent Shakespeare supporter.

Reilly comes out blazing as his theatrical, exuberant and dramatic presentation of Burbage captures the stage.  He is vocal, loud and proud of his delivery and participation in the Bard’s life.

Duchin’s character develops into one of the original forces behind the search for all of Shakespeare’s works.  His character changes from the friend who is more positive and confident in that search into one full of fear and anxiety as the project hits several road blocks.

DeConciliis’ character is the more hesitant of the two friends as they start their adventure. He agonizes over any obstacle that impedes the project.  He however, is the one who becomes more confident when the partners see a viable end to their venture.  His scene when personal tragedy strikes is touching and powerful.

Patrick Conner delivers as the sly, unethical businessman who has eighteen of Shakespeare’s plays (that he stole) and wants to deal.

As the daughter of the innkeeper, Weber cleverly inserts herself into much of the discussion about finding the scripts.  She is confident participating with the men on this project.

Rosleck plays Elizabeth as her husband’s supporter, prodder and equal partner in their quest for Shakespeare’s lost scripts.  Some of her clever retorts highlight her comedic side.

Lloyd Harding’s character is a strong woman able to keep her husband focused, bolstering his confidence when he falters.  She is positive, yet forceful.

“The Book of Will” is a wonderful production.  Every actor in this show was outstanding!

You’re bound to love it!

The set is minimal with a large table where most of the action occurs.  As the printing process begins, rope lines of Shakespeare’s scripts hang above the table highlighting part of the antiquated printing process.

Costume Designer Barbara Burgess-Lefebrve did a great job designing the period pieces.

Kudos to Director Sunny Disney-Fitchett.

“The Book of Will” was written by Lauren Gunderson and is based on a true story.


“The Book of Will” runs from October 5 to October 22 at Little Lake Theatre, 500 Lakeside Drive, Canonsburg, PA 15301. For more information, click here.


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