A CRY OF PLAYERS, TimeLine Theatre Company, at the Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ. What little we know about Shakespeare before he became a popular London playwright is easily summarized. He was born and grew up in a painfully provincial village, Stratford-upon-Avon; his father was a glover; when Shakespeare was 18 he married Anne Hathaway; and six months after the wedding she gave birth to their first daughter.
William Gibson builds a highly dramatic story around this handful of facts, giving them enough conflict and adventure to fill two hours and 20 minutes. As in his best known play--The Miracle Worker, about Anne Sullivan's attempts to reach and teach Helen Keller--Gibson is interested in telling his protagonist's story only up until he or she sets out on the path to greatness, in this case when Shakespeare decides to leave his family and hometown for an uncertain life in a ragtag theater troupe. Gibson fills the play with all sorts of Shakespearean characters: shrewish wives, cruel authority figures, lusty wenches, and clever but roguish companions of the sort that surrounded Prince Hal.
It's a tactic that works well with a cast like the one director Jay Paul Skelton has assembled, comfortable playing the Bard's creations--characters more intense, alive, and verbally adept than anyone we're likely to meet. Doug MacKechnie is particularly fine as the black-hearted puritan Sir Thomas, determined to rid his fiefdom of anything that distracts the citizens from their work.