Kill Will at The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre has combat, drama, more combat, comedy, and a little more combat. Written by Barter Theater Associate Artistic Director Derek Davidson and directed by Philadelphia local Kevin McGuire, this show is quick compilation of Shakespeare’s fight scenes from all genres, such as Macbeth, As You Like It, King Lear, and Macbeth, As You Like It, King Lear, and many more.
Since the show is a compilation, it is quite a unique take on the original text. The actors become dramatized versions of themselves to introduce and segue the scenes and then immediately and usually humorously jump into familiar archetypal characters. This storytelling tactic often highlights inside jokes of the players. With digestible tidbits of Shakespeare, these are helpful audience introductions to all of the selections, especially the lesser known plays.
McGuire’s staging is minimal, considering most of the show consisted of Fight Director Michael Cosenza’s combat. Combat consisted of armed, unarmed, and almost everything in between. The use of all of the stage, entrance, exits, and aisles was wonderfully diverse in this show, attributed to the combat itself. Sometimes the blocking falls victim to the difficulty of a thrust stage, but I have no doubt that will be rectified in front of the next audience. The design was simple and effective, allowing the audience to concentrate on the intense physical action at hand.
While the cast was clearly hired for their combat abilities, it did feel like a true ensemble. They shined specifically in Act V, Sc. I from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The actors played the Mechanicals putting on the unsuccessful melodrama, Pyramus and Thisbe. This was most successful due to the fact that this ensemble felt much like the Midsummer Mechanicals. Seeing them with their minimal and makeshift props, costumed in comfortable basic sweatpants and t-shirts, and soundscape from cast member’s Alexander Eltzroth’s guitar, it felt very much like friends having fun and putting on a show simply for the love of Shakespeare.
Aaron Kirkpatrick’s immense talent is seen throughout the entire performance, both comedically and dramatically, but he especially shines as “The Wall” in the aforementioned scene. He also shines in The Taming of the Shrew scene, where he played Petruchio with Julia Jensen Ray as his Katerina. Taming was one of the most captivating and consistent scenes within the show, hitting fight moves and one liners moment after moment, never pausing for a breath until the very end, and Jensen Ray was generally a strong actor throughout.
Over and over, the deaths are never-ending in Shakespeare’s plays. Because, after all, “You can’t kill Will.”
Running Time: Approximately 70 minutes, with no intermission.
Kill Will runs plays through September 19, 2015 as a part of the Philadelphia FringeArts Festival at The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre – 2111 Sansom Street, in Philadelphia, PA. For tickets, call the box office at (215) 496-9722 ext. 105 or purchase them online.