Taking Shakespeare, by John Murrell
|Martha Henry as Prof and Luke Humphrey as Murph.|
Photo by V. Tony Hauser.
Taking Shakespeare is an ok play. It is not Shakespeare, and what it has to say about Shakespeare and Othello and Othello's characters has been said before. Like any story* about a student finding his way by connecting to an inspiring teacher, this play is tender, but thankfully in this case not saccharine. It is witty - though conversely through Murph's dim-wittedness and Prof's exasperation - but not brilliant. It follows a familiar pattern in that the characters connect, form an unlikely bond, learn from each other and then, as in any good story, the inspiring teacher or mentor is forced to leave so the mentee can find his or her own way.
Therefore what makes this production really worth seeing are the performances by its two actors.
|Martha Henry as Prof. Photo by V. Tony Hauser.|
Also delightfully meta in an art-imitating-life kind of way, is the fact that Luke Humphrey, playing Murph, was Ms. Henry's student in the Conservatory. Thankfully it appears Mr. Humphrey does not share Murph's inability to grasp his work - he is a very natural actor, quite charismatic in drawing both laughs and empathy from an audience, and he and his former teacher show a respect for each other as they play shadows of themselves. Even though the role of Prof was written with Ms. Henry in mind, it must be a wonderfully surreal challenge for these actors to successfully perform this play without any hint of self-consciousness, but they do.
|Luke Humphrey as Murph. Photo by V. Tony Hauser.|
*Mona Lisa Smile, Dead Poet's Society, To Sir With Love, Good-bye Mr. Chips... insert favourite cinematic teacher-inspires student film here.