Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Why all of Shakespeare's plays are available

Alice Heminges ((Lauren D’Ambrosio) looks over the First Folio preface as Henry Condell (Michael Rhone, left) and her father, John (Anthony Silk), await her opinion. (David Allen photo)

 Presented by Foothill College Theatre Arts, Lauren Gunderson’s “The Book of Will” looks at the efforts involved in preserving the works of William Shakespeare for posterity.

Most of the action takes in a tavern adjoining the Old Globe Theatre three years after the Bard’s death. As it opens, three actors from the theater’s resident company, the King’s Men, are lamenting the publication of a pirated version of “Hamlet.”

They are Henry Condell (Michael Rhone), John Heminges (Anthony Silk) and Richard Burbage (John Musgrave).

After Burbage’s death that night, Henry and John discuss the possibility of assembling all of Shakespeare’s plays into one volume. Unfortunately, there are few complete scripts available.

Moreover, an unscrupulous publisher, William Jaggard (Musgrave), apparently has the rights to most of the plays.

Through luck, ingenuity and the assistance of scribe Ralph Crane (Gwendolyne Wagner), who had served as a prompter and had saved many of the scripts, Henry and John are closer to their goal.

After Jaggard dies, his more honest son, Isaac (Steve Allhoff), steps in to help. Despite more obstacles, the First Folio is published and Shakespeare’s plays preserved for posterity.

The play offers some glimpses of life’s perils at that time, as evidenced by the deaths of Burbage, Jaggard the elder and John’s wife, Rebecca Heminges (Carla Befera).

Providing moral support and encouragement are Henry’s wife, Elizabeth Condell (Eiko Yamamoto), and the Heminges’ daughter, Alice (Lauren D’Ambrosio).

Directed by Bruce McLeod, the cast is a mix of student and seasoned actors. Hence the results are mixed with solid performances by several actors and overacting by others.

The set by Yusuke Soi works well, as do the costumes by Lisa Rozman and sound by Max Stanylov.

Lines from some of the plays add interest to the show, which nevertheless drags in spots.

Running about two hours with an intermission, “The Book of Will” will continue through Nov. 21 in the Lohman Theatre, Foothill College, 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills.

For tickets and information, call (650) 949-7360 or visit