Thanks to its intriguing premise, Abraham Alan Ross”™ romantic comedy Elizabeth Shakespeare and The Astute Detective is a play with a promising start. A scruffy private investigator returns to his homey office and clues in the audience by addressing us directly in the expected hard-boiled fashion. Paunchy and grey-bearded, our P.I. Tad Maxwell (Chris DeCarlo) recalls an encounter with a prospective client, a slim, black satin-clad femme fatale Elizabeth (Pia Pownall) who claims she is a direct descendant of the Bard himself, William Shakespeare. Elizabeth says needs is a willing envoy to travel to England to retrieve the Will”™s original will. Or is there more to this client than she is revealing?
Although Tad”™s peril radar goes off (“She was a vision of danger, cloaked in loveliness,”) he agrees to take the case. But no one actually leaves for jolly old England.Â Instead, a barrage of witty repartÃ©e ensues between the prickly pair. Ross”™ play devotes most of its time to an enthusiastic debate about the veracity of the origins of Shakespeare”™s famous works.
Thanks to some nifty sci-fi special effects, we flash back in time to converse with the Bard himself, as well as Edward deVere, the 17th Earl of Oxford (both parts amusingly played by James Schendel) who many scholars believe is the true author of Shakespeare”™s canon.
Unfortunately this promising idea soon collapses into a jumbled, incoherent mess. Tad”™s tendency for theatrics meshes well with Elizabeth”™s high-flown language, but it would be great if the two main actors didn”™t fluff their lines so frequently. Elizabeth”™s character demonstrates an odd vacillation between wanting to murder Tad and romance him. The tentative swordplay doesn”™t work all that well on such a small stage, but it”™s a valiant effort and still mildly entertaining.
Somewhere within this rambling yet witty duel of wills and Wills is a clever play. Some rigorous re-working is required.
Elizabeth Shakespeare and The Astute Detective
The Main Stage at Santa Monica Playhouse
1211 4th Â Street
(between Arizona and Wilshire)
Santa Â Monica, CA 90401-1391
Runs until Â Sunday, October 24th, 2010
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm
Sundays at 6:00pm
Tickets $25.00, purchase here or call Â 310-394-9779 x 1
Review by Pauline Adamek