Banter with the Bard

Elizabeth Shakespeare, played by Pia Pownall, and Tad Maxwell, played by Chris DeCarlo.

The late, great William Shakespeare has so many stories about love’s labors lost; anguish, mistaken identities, duels and rumbles, murders, mayhem — all complicated “who-dun-its,” in the name of passion and greed.

Now, a modern day satirical comedy revisits the stage, with Elizabeth Shakespeare and The Astute Detective, complete with mystery, intrigue and an ongoing battle of words, wits and wills over the most famous Will of all, between two charismatic performers; Chris DeCarlo, as the sly sleuth, Tad Maxwell; and Pia Pownall as the scheming, seductive Elizabeth.

Adding to the mix is a wonderful character actor, James Schendel, who appears through a magical window frame, taking us back in time to Shakespeare and Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, with much humor, surprise and delight. The show’s quite interesting premise presents the provocative question of de Vere as possibly the true author of Shakespeare’s work.

“It’s a fresh take on the adored English playwright,” said one audience member. “If any of it is true.”

The two main actors share a love of language and kindred spirits, sharing soliloquies and developing a little romance and playfulness along the way. They enjoy simple pleasures, like “ a book of verse, a jug of wine, and thou.” The audience can’t help but get absorbed in both the levity and drama, as the three actor ensemble has a natural rapport, energy, and impeccable comedic timing, keeping the show’s pace steady and deliberate.

Both physical humor and wordy dialogue add a sense of fun and are indeed the play’s highest virtues.

The show runs Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m. through Oct 24. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th St. (310) 394-9779.


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