Quote of the Day: Oh, Jesus bless us, he is born with teeth! And so I was, which plainly signified that I should snarl and bite, play the dog. from the final act of Henry VI, Part III, William Shakespeare (or was it Marlowe?) from whence playwright Liz Duffy Adams got her title for this brilliant new play placing the two great playwrights in the same room. (Found in the program guide for the play at The Guthrie Theater. I call it the magazine that accompanies the play. I read that thing from cover to cover!)
Born With Teeth by Liz Duffy Adams is billed as a comedy, so I was expecting more silly than serious. As all good comedies are, it’s grounded in truths, some historical facts, and captivating characters. Instead of silly, I’d call this a smart comedy, the kind that makes you laugh, then think, then wonder what was fact and what was fiction. The program guide (magazine) covers some of that. I really appreciated the interview this time with the playwright Adams, and the director Rob Melrose. And, if you need a little background before watching the show, read the article on “The Lies and Spies of Old Queen Liz” in the program guide. I didn’t do any prep before watching the play. I went in cold, deciding it was something I wanted to wash over me without prejudice or expectation. I was fully engaged the entire length of this 90 minute play with no intermission to interrupt the flow.
Playwright Adams imagines what it might have been like if Will (Shakespeare) and Kit (Marlowe) were in the same room together. Evidence points to a probable collaboration of the two great writers, and she takes it into the room where it happens. She gives them personality, drive, creative genius, and of course competitive spirits. All set to the backdrop of Elizabethan England where the queen truly did fear for her life. She had many enemies. And, confusing as it is, at the time it was bad to be Catholic, in a country that once demanded that their citizens be part of that religion. But, King Henry VIII (remember Six) created the Church of England so he could divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn. Beheadings fit into both religions, apparently. In fact, Queen Elizabeth enjoyed seeing the severed heads on spikes along the London Bridge. Not a pretty time. In fact, it was dangerous. Dangerous to be the wrong religion, to love the wrong people, to talk to the wrong people and say the wrong thing, rumors and conspiracies ran rampant. Marlowe was a known spy and turned in many people.
Adams also imagines that Will and Kit might have had more in common than words and brilliant imaginations. Although Will had a wife and kids back in Stratton, he spent much of his time in London. Kit brings out feelings in Will that he’s tried to suppress. Their chemistry is electric. These two actors, Dylan Godwin as Will and Matthew Amendt as Kit, are outstanding. They embodied all the complex emotions of the creative spirit, men who fight for survival and to love as they wish, and to thrive in a volatile time.
I brought my friend Georgia to the play. She said that having recently read Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell helped her understand the play better and get many of the references. I added the audio book to my library! I’ll be listening to it on my drive back to Brainerd tonight.
The set design by Michael Locher puts you into that room with Will and Kit. Open slats give you a sense of the outside world, windows with various color displays (lighting by Carolina Ortiz Herrera) reflect mood, time and place. Sound design by Cliff Caruthers is wonderful. This is both a comedy and a tragedy, and the sound effects and music really set those moods. The staging, movement and interaction of the characters is brilliantly directed by Rob Melrose. Costumes by Alejo Vietti are wonderful, period inspired, leather, studs, loose shirts and tight pants. (They are a little sexy.)
You can see Born With Teeth at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, MN through April 2, 2023. I’d love to hear what you think of the smart, new comedy about this volatile time and these two prolific writers.
Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt: Do you think William Shakespeare wrote every word to every play accredited to him? Who do you think were his collaborators? What makes a story a classic with the kind of longevity of these two writers?