Review: Shakespeare's still got it

Drew Barkdale, Bailey Stipes, Elizabeth Davis, Erik Schiller, Joseph Rebrovick and McKinley Merritt, back to front and left to right, will appear in the Clarence Brown Theatre's production of 'Will Power.' 
 submitted photo

Drew Barkdale, Bailey Stipes, Elizabeth Davis, Erik Schiller, Joseph Rebrovick and McKinley Merritt, back to front and left to right, will appear in the Clarence Brown Theatre's production of "Will Power." submitted photo

"Will Power" is a play that covers all the basics. Deep tragedy is followed by bits of sharp comedy and scenes of tender romance. Mixed in are rousing speeches and poignant soliloquies.

The University of Tennessee Lab Theatre production uses the words and works of William Shakespeare. Adapted and directed by UT assistant theater professor Kate Buckley, "Will Power" is a quick-moving show. It's a "greatest hits" of sorts, a mix of lines or scenes from the Shakespearean catalog. You won't find the witches of "Macbeth" or hear any "Romeo and Juliet" but many of Shakespeare's more famous speeches or lines are here. "Will Power" embraces Hamlet's "To be or not to be" soliloquy, Macbeth's gloomy "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow" speech and the line "First thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers" from Henry VI, Part 2.

Moving from comedy to history to tragedy and back and forth or around again, the scenes flow in each other. There's no disconnect when a scene by the lovers of "As You Like It" is followed by Hamlet. Six undergraduate actors play a total of 42 parts. Thursday's preview lasted about 70 minutes, meaning the play is crammed with lines from 18 plays. That's a lot of character development but the actors — Drew Barksdale, Elizabeth Davis, McKinley Merritt, Joseph Rebrovick, Erik Schiller and Bailey Stipes — carry off their many parts.

If you haven't taken college Shakespeare lately, what words came from what play could be puzzling. Plays aren't introduced before players speak the lines. But perhaps it's better to sit back and enjoy the telling. For the relationships between men and women come through in scenes from such plays as "Much Ado About Nothing," "Comedy of Errors" and "The Taming of the Shrew" even if the audience might not recall their origins. Certainly "Henry V's" "St. Crispin's Day" speech with its "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers" line is stirring without knowing either the history it relates or the play in which it's part.

Buckley's inclusion of scenes from several of Shakespeare's history plays like "Henry V" was a good decision. While the plays about English history aren't produced as often as Shakespeare's tragedies or comedies they include powerful and touching scenes.

If you go to "Will Power," take a lover of Shakespeare with a good memory. Or go for the telling. Four hundred years after he penned them, Shakespeare's words retain power.

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'Will Power'

What: Scenes from William Shakepeare

Where: University of Tennessee Lab Theatre

When: 7:30 p.m. today, Oct. 31-Nov. 2, Nov. 4, Nov. 7-9, Nov. 11; 2 p.m. Oct. 28, Nov. 4 & 11

Tickets: General admission $15 adults, $12 non-UT student, $5 UT student, at www.clarencebrowntheatre.com or 865-974-5161

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