Born with Teeth-A++++++ production at Artswest

Will Will or won’t Will?

Born with Teeth, a truly amazing production of a truly amazing script, was full of wit, intrigue, dramatic action and high-stakes suspense. Written by Liz Duffy Adams, directed by Matthew Wright, starring two exceptional actors, Michael Monicatti as the playwright Christopher Marlowe and Ricky Spaulding as William Shakespeare, Born with Teeth is a tribute to Artswest.

Born with Teeth is, in essence, one long conversation with only two actors. This makes it one of the most challenging types of plays to stage because you need a super engaging script, A+++ actors with huge amounts of stamina and a brilliant director. Artswest delivered the goods and more so.

When the play opens in 1591, the two playwrights meet in a private room in a tavern ostensibly to collaborate on a play. At the time, the super narcissistic, flamboyantly gay “Kit” Marlowe was the leading playwright of the day, while Shakespeare is an low-key, self-effacing actor/aspiring playwright.

Marlowe was also notorious for getting into trouble and even more notorious for being able to get out of trouble effortlessly; in short, it is rumored that he was a domestic spy, in the pay of high government officials, and that he cultivated influential friends by nefarious means.

What ensues is a complicated cat-n-mouse game, while the conversation gyrates around a multi-layered seduction of Shakespeare by Marlowe. It is a dangerous conversation because Elizabethan England was a precariously Protestant country with powerful Catholic enemies both foreign and domestic. Spies and informers were everywhere, and once caught draconian torture was common.

Ricky Spaulding as Will Shakespeare(L)
Michael Monicatti as Christopher Marlowe (R)

Will Shakespeare is highly suspicious of Marlowe’s motives and attempts to dodge probing questions about his religious and political beliefs, his sexuality etc. Marlowe, the self-proclaimed corrupt super-schmoozer, confronts Shakespeare and himself about the necessity of selling-out by cultivating influential friends to promote one’s writing. Will, an innocent looking lad, maintains that he just wants to succeed on his own merits, keep a low profile, and stay above the fray. The intricate dialogue was steaming with sexual politics and politicized sexuality.

This very heated, witty, lightening-paced discussion has a lot of historical and literary details, expertly embedded into the text, all rendered skillfully as both actors have excellent comic and dramatic timing. Will and Kit discuss very profound subjects along the way, and there is never a dull moment. Unpredictably, at the very end, there is an ironic twist

Although simple, the scenic design by Jeremy Hollis was effective, as it suggested, the menacing culture of London and the equally menacing dynamics between the two playwrights. Complementing the dangerous atmosphere was the lighting, by Chih-Hung Shao, and Sound by Sandra Huezo-Menjivar. In terms of staging, the only problem was that the audience was seated in a ¾ in the round auditorium, and I was seated in a corner, so the actors’ backs were to me a lot.

All in all, Born with Teeth, was a GREAT production and gives me hope that Seattle is back on the theatre map after the upheaval of the pandemic.

Do not miss this show!!!!!!

Born with Teeth. Artswest 4711 California Ave, SW, 98116 (West Seattle) Thur-Sat 7:30 pm. Sun 3pm. Til Feb 25.

Tickets: https://www.artswest.org/events/born-with-teeth/

Parking & Transportation. There is paid parking behind the building, with free parking available on residential streets within 4 blocks west and south of the theater. King County Metro has a stop for the C Line on the same block as the building.

The West Seattle Bridge is open.

Also, Sunday matinées start after the West Seattle Farmer’s Markets, which is located on California Ave. There are Several excellent restaurants on California Ave, including Bakery Nouveau

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