Brustein cheerily admits his thefts, the point being that Shakespeare was no less a sponge. Indeed, even as the playwright champions the Bard’s genius, he turns him into a sort of SpongeWill PuffPants who finally eschews pure poetry to embrace the “invisibility” of the playwright, “fit only to create the lives of others.” But some of the greatest poetry of the ages is in Shakespeare’s plays. Ditto some of the best female characters — yet Brustein, who is at work on a book espousing Shakespeare’s misogyny (among other prejudices), makes his hero a bit of a lout with regard to women.
The English Channel, then, is an academic argument built into a bawdy comedy sketch. Wesley Savick directs the staging, the inaugural production of the handsomely renovated C. Walsh Theatre, but there’s not much that can be done. Sean Duggan makes the aggressively homosexual, alliterative Marlowe an energetic force, and Alex Pollock is an aptly vain, waspish Goldilocks of a Southampton. Merritt Janson is a too innocent if confident Lanier, and Gabriel Field plays the slack Shakespeare Brustein gives him. But who needs a play about the Bard in which he’s a blank?
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