An Evening With Will Shakespeare | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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An Evening With Will Shakespeare

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An Evening With Will Shakespeare, Heartland Cafe Studio Theater. That young men have written poetry in order to attract girls comes as no surprise, nor that their metaphors frequently camouflage sentiments of less than lofty intent. But never has the line between art and autobiography been finer than in this innocuously titled supposed stroll down memory lane by an infirm and embittered William Shakespeare on the eve of his 52nd birthday.

Every Brit-lit student knows that the Bard is talking about masturbation in "The expense of spirit in a waste of shame." Who'd have thought, however, that "Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day" forgives his mistress for giving him syphilis, just after he upbraids her for not warning him to wear a condom in the line "No more be griev'd at that which thou hast done"? Or that he caricatured his most loyal patron in All's Well That Ends Well, alienating that gentleman forever?

Dan Decker's comfortably chatty monologue, directed by Tom Lenane, incorporates a number of Shakespeare's poems as well as juicy backstage stories of "the Burbage boys" and angry my-father-didn't-love-me diatribes. At the preview performance I attended, this one-man show was played vigorously (if a little too broadly for the tiny Heartland space) by Jason Grubbe. Decker's scholarship may strike some as speculative, but it's still reason enough to question what we didn't learn in school.

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