Saturday, July 7, 2018

Shakespeare's Sonnets for Modern Times: A Goodly Creation

Among the giants of English literary history, Shakespeare is head and shoulders above the rest for his creativity, craftsmanship and masterful use of language. Beside his well-known plays are more than 150 sonnets collected into a sequence published in 1609.

This 14-line poetic form tradtionally addresses themes of love and beauty in an idealized or metaphorical way, but Shakespeare introduced material that confonts the human experience of love as it truly is: erotic, erratic and often tragic.

Though never intended as a theatrical script per se, the sonnets have internal voices that lend themselves to dialogue, and a continuity of subject matter that offers many adaptations to a plot. It's these qualities that make "Goodly Creatures: A Review of Shakespeare's Sonnets for Modern Times" viable as a staged production.

Created by company founder and director Katrina Syrris, "Goodly Creatures" uses the original text of twelve sonnets to construct a layered and interconnected story of three couples and two singles in various stages of relationship. In each of the twelve short scenes, the action, costume and a few choice props establish context and story lines that illuminate the Elizabethan period language.

Amaria Von Dran and Cam Tucker perform Sonnet 145 in "Goodly Creatures: A Review of Shakespeare's Sonnets for Modern Times."

Incredibly, the cast is able to portray complex modern situations involving childless same-sex couples, adultery, bedroom politics, and perhaps even suicide. Shakespeare's dense and often opaque turns of phrase become clear through the sharp direction and careful acting of this highly original piece.

Thoughtful sound and lighting design and a minimal set reinforce the idea that stories such as these happen in every time and place, as the 400 year old language speaks of universal truths to adults of any century, age or gender.

Borrowing a creative device from the form itself, the final scene reinforces the enduring primacy of Love like the closing couplet of an ingenious sonnet.

"Goodly Creatures" continues Thursday through Sunday until July 15th at the Elgin Art Showcase and runs for two more weeks at Stage 773 in Chicago. Come early to get a front row seat, as you'll want to hear every word. For tickets and more information, go to