2/23/22: Jane Anger, or The Lamentable Comedie of JANE ANGER, that Cunning Woman, and also of Willy Shakefpeare and his Peasant Companion, Francis, Yes and Also of Anne Hathaway (also a Woman) Who Tried Very Hard
What: A workshop of a new play about Jane Anger, author of the pamphlet "Her Protection for Women" and--this play posits--the Dark Lady of Shakespeare's sonnets, in the time of quarantine during the plague (well, one of them), who visits Shakespeare as he struggles to break through a bout of writer's block. Playwright Talene Monahon also stars as Shakespeare's abandoned wife Anne Hathaway (not to be confused with Oscar-winning actor Anne Hathaway).
And? It's a workshop so take that with the grain of salt it deserves. I like a number of the themes, particularly toward the end, about rewriting history, and what one would be willing to sacrifice of great work to achieve some portion of happiness and peace. Shakespeare, in this iteration, is a brilliant artist and a truly bad man, and the question becomes, is he worth keeping around for the plays and poetry he writes, regardless of the vulnerable people he harms--a question we are actively grappling with as we topple the likes of Rowling and Whedon over their toxic and harmful behavior. Because yes, another big point this show is making is that none of these questions we have now are new, not even about how to survive a plague. So there are definitely interesting ideas in play here, but the play isn't fully baked and unfortunately I think it's got the wrong director. A lot of the humor grates more than amuses, especially between Shakespeare and Francis; the reason I'm laying blame on the director is that when Anne Hathaway finally appears, played by the play's author, Talene Monahon, I started to understand at last the intended tone of the piece. Monahon's Anne Hathaway is hapless but earnest, delivering ridiculous lines without assiding or irony. The jokes aren't meant to be guffaw-inducing, like they're delivered in the first half of the play, but they're funnier for it. Before we think I have a problem with asiding, Amelia Workman's sly and knowing Jane Anger begins the play with an audience address prologue and her charisma helps carry us through much of the more awkward sections of what follows. tl;dr: I enjoyed the women, tolerated with waning patience the men, and think this show has legs but it's not there yet.