A scene from Santa Cruz Shakespeare's "Book of Will."
The publishers of the first folio of Shakespeare’s plays share the book with Shakespeare’s widow in Santa Cruz Shakespeare’s “Book of Will.” (From left, Mike Ryan, Allie Pratt, Amy Kim Waschke and Charles Pasternak.)
(Via RR Jones)
City Life

Santa Cruz Shakespeare shines as Bard’s buds compile ‘Book of Will’

Lauren Gunderson’s “The Book of Will,” the story of two actors and friends of Shakespeare who take it upon themselves to collect all of Shakespeare’s plays, is perfectly at home in the Grove at DeLaveaga it only seems as though it was written for Santa Cruz Shakespeare to perform.

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The buzz you’re hearing from up on the hill at DeLaveaga is for Santa Cruz Shakespeare’s terrific new production of Lauren Gunderson’s “The Book of Will.” It’s the kind of play that seems like it was written for this company and for this venue, but of course it was not.

Though the play is set in Shakespearean times, the language is much more contemporary. And it portrays a real pivot point in the long history of the greatest writer in the English language. Taking place not too long after Shakespeare’s death, the play tells the story of two actors and friends of Shakespeare who take it upon themselves to collect all of Shakespeare’s plays — at the time scattered all over the place, often in bowdlerized versions — and put them all in one magnificent folio edition … like, you know, the Book of Will.

The two actors are played, significantly, by the outgoing artistic director, Mike Ryan, and the incoming one, Charles Pasternak. Ryan’s role is particularly resonant here, considering he largely “saved” this particular theater company after it was expelled from UC Santa Cruz (may some talented young playwright take on that story one day).

The production is crisp and lively, and the play might enlighten you a bit on how Shakespeare’s work survived. But undercutting it all, there in Gunderson’s beautiful script and only enhanced and amplified by the fine performances, is an abiding love for Shakespeare’s enduring legacy. The play’s final scene pays tribute to that legacy in an especially memorable way. It brought chills to my spine and a lump to my throat. I’m sure it will do the same for you. See it soon before it closes Aug. 27.