Husband and I went on lots of dates last week (trying to make up for lost time and future time apart). One night we headed to the West Village to checkout and review the off-broadway show Women of Will.
Tina Packer is the creative genius behind this wild feminine ride through Shakespeare’s plays. This enthusiastic lady has studied and taught Shakespeare for most of her life (She is the former artistic director of Shakespeare & Company in Massachusetts), and her passion for all things William is evident from the moment she opens her mouth. The play is a five-part series that takes you through The Comedy of Errors, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, The Winter’s Tale and many many more! The only catch is that each “part” is a different play. For example we saw Part 1: The Warrior Women, from Violence to Negotiation.
Going into the show we were very nervous. It is located in the gym of Judson Memorial Church The seats consist of fold out chairs and cushions on the floor. The set consisted of an Oriental rug, some lights and scaffolding. I don’t mean to sound snooty, like good shows can only be performed in enormous glamorous theaters…I know that’s not true. However, we were worried the first line of the show would be “Why don’t you like me!?”
It was not a one woman show. A man, Nigel Gore, performs with Tina, but it definitely has the ‘one-woman show’ feel to it. Tina’s goal is to present the women of William Shakespeare and explore how they evolve, and how Shakespeare’s writing evolves, through the history of his plays.
The performance is half lecture – half theatre. It consists of 5 minute skits, and a discussion following each skit. What I find most impressive is the actors’ ability to switch so quickly and effortlessly from casual chats with the audience to dramatic Elizabethan characters. They are very talented, intelligent and have the ability to relate with their audience.
Overall, I have very mixed feelings about this show. I would have enjoyed it most as a student. Thanks to my senior English teacher and Humanities teacher I studied enough Shakespeare to appreciate his works and continued studying him in college, so I really appreciated learning about the development of the women in his plays. However, I was not in the mood to be a “student” on Friday night. The lectures were all a bit too long, and I longed for more acting. Husband wanted to bolt immediately. He agrees that the acting is good, and the information interesting, but not his cup of tea AT ALL.
Even though both Tina and Nigel were great actors, it was hard to imagine them as so many different characters, and of very different age ranges. Sometimes, I was just getting pulled into a dramatic scene, and it would be abruptly interrupted for another spiel.
Any fan of Shakespeare will adore this play, but I’m not sure if non-fans will appreciate what Tina and her team have to offer. The audience consisted of all adults, most whom were taking notes. Yes, notes..during a play. There was also a very grumpy older woman next to us who complained about the man who snorted while laughing next to her (to his face), and treated us like criminals for eating candy. We were probably the least serious people in the audience.