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The Timing's the Thing 

The Book of Will at Redwood Curtain

click to enlarge Molly Severdia, Daniel Baer and Todd Hoberecht in The Book of Will.

Courtesy of Curtain Theatre

Molly Severdia, Daniel Baer and Todd Hoberecht in The Book of Will.

Timing and rhythm can turn a 90-minute masterpiece into a 120-minute dental experience. They make comedy gut-busting or obligatorily chuckling. They set up style, and era, and can even relate to culture. The context of what an audience experiences in a given day — the death of a political figure, the birthday of rock star, the anniversary of a tragedy — can affect the impact of pace and delivery. Exceptional companies work within these tricky nuances to deliver timeless performances. It's the magic of theatre. The company performing The Book of Will at Redwood Curtain Theatre is a triumph in timing and rhythm, and it produces many of these magical moments throughout the show. The cast creates a world I believe and love.

The simple plot: It's 1619, three years after the death of William Shakespeare. Henry Condell (Daniel Baer) and John Heminges (Todd Hoberecht) begin the painstaking process of making a complete anthology of the Bard's work amid plagiarism, knockoffs and loss. The rapid pace of the opening act amplifies the energy to illustrate jovial and deep relationships. While actors wittily say their lines, there are side eyes, secret winks, obvious opinions and an abundance of textured everyday life that makes it fun. It feels genuine without distracting from the progression of the story. As Alice Heminges, Molly Severdia is a natural at this and delights audiences when they catch her reactions. The pace also allows for the beauty of Shakespeare's featured lines to take the stage when the cast slows, focuses and grants the words breath and time. When both those reactions and the source text are juxtaposed, the impact is stunning and centers the Bard's poetry. It's an effective technique orchestrated by Director Ruthi Engelke. Particularly good at this is Brad Harrington as Richard Burbage, who nimbly goes from playwright Laura Gunderson's more contemporary text to reciting Hamlet and Macbeth.

Act II benefits from allowing time to explore some beautiful moments that wouldn't be as successful if the actors had chewed on their Act I lines. Though I may have preferred their breath getting caught more in their throats as opposed to holding or deep breaths, Hoberecht and Baer are stunning in the deeply tragic opener. Later, even when it is restricted by neck-straining-tennis-volley split scenes, some unnecessary choreography and a miming bit that seems out of place, we're already invested and comfortably along for the ride.

RCT has produced shows with some of the best acting I have seen in Humboldt and this production is no different. If you have yet to see Christina Jioras or Michael Murdoch, you are missing out and should immediately get a ticket to this show, as they are both exceptional. Coupled with Baer and Hoberecht, all the talents are on similar levels and elevate the acting of everyone around them. Keenan Hilton and Evan Needham are a pleasure to watch as their love of Shakespeare spills into their roles. Finn Ferguson and Monica Blacklock produce effective work, and, as Engelke expressed, rounding off the cast is the late Clint Rebik as the absent Shakespeare in this final production in the space he co-created.

Though lighting designer Mike Foster's ideas are beautiful, they were foiled by machinery on the night I attended. The positioning of the movers threw light around like a rock concert and blinked as they transitioned between colors. Laura Rhinehart's sets make incredible use of the limited space, though some cheaply made wine barrels don't quite fit in. However, looking at the beautiful costumes by Lori Knowles, some shoes don't quite fit in, so it could be argued that they are all in the same world. Lastly, the person responsible for the beautiful prop book needs a mention in the playbill. It's incredible.

Shakespeare's Complete Works is translated into more than 100 languages and has reached all around the world. As such, this play (especially the end) could be better told with at least one BIPOC in the cast (or crew). Such casting would also align with RCT's renewed commitment to build inclusivity and diversity. Still, this is an excellent production and needs to be seen.

Redwood Curtain Theatre's The Book of Will runs through May 13 with 8 p.m. performances Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. matinees April 23 and April 30. Call (707) 440-9208 or visit

Tiggerbouncer Custodio (he/she/they) is an empowered queer Indigenous Filipino artist whose works have been seen on Humboldt stages and elsewhere.


The musical adaptation of the comedy Sister Act continues at Ferndale Repertory Theatre through May 7. Call (707) 786-5483 or visit


The MetroManiacs brings a farcical French fracas to North Coast Repertory Theatre April 28-May 28. Call (707) 442-6278 or visit

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