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THEATER REVIEWS : Play Puts 'Herstorical' Spin on the Life of Shakespeare : In 'Anne Hath a Way,' playwright S.A. Sizemore speculates that the Bard's genius came from his wife.

August 25, 1994|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

For centuries, scholars have debated the true authorship of William Shakespeare's plays, believing that a low-born and little-educated man couldn't possibly have created the likes of "King Lear," "Hamlet" and "The Tempest."

Playwright S.A. Sizemore has come up with a new theory: that Shakespeare's plays were written by his wife. Sizemore's playful speculation has led to "Anne Hath a Way," which is making its public debut this weekend at the Plaza Players Theater in Ventura.

Reviewed with the consent of author Sizemore and director Denise Santoyo at a preview performance last weekend, the new play is considerable fun, and not just for Shakespeare scholars--though they should be especially amused at the notion of Sir Francis Bacon and the Earl of Oxford trying to find out for whom their associate Will was fronting.

The story is told in flashback by Mrs. Shakespeare, Anne Hathaway, on her deathbed, confronted by her two daughters and a Dickensian ghost. Will, as Sizemore would have it, was a thick-witted, virtually illiterate womanizing actor; Hathaway, a writer frustrated that Elizabethan literary circles wouldn't take a woman seriously. The solution was obvious, if not immediately so to Shakespeare.

This isn't heavy drama but instead rather resembles a "Saturday Night Live" sketch. Unlike the typical "SNL" piece, of course, "Anne Hath a Way" is literate, funny and doesn't just drizzle off aimlessly into the next commercial break. While the history is more-or-less correct, Sizemore and Santoyo give the story a decidedly modern spin. The characters are portrayed in their 20s and speak in American accents and occasionally, for comic effect, in late 20th-Century cliches.

Santoyo's cast includes some of Ventura County's best actors, notably Hugh McManigal as Shakespeare, James Leslie (fresh from the Ojai Shakespeare Festival's "Othello" and "Twelfth Night") as actor Richard Burbage, and Antoinette Pineau as Anne Hathaway. Becky Stier and KHAY/KVEN reporter Julie Schepis appear as Shakespeare's daughters; Jennifer Joseph as the dying Anne; Michelle Tubbs as Shakespeare's mistress, and Travis Curtis Greer as Sir Francis Bacon. A real find is Jim Minics as the comic Earl of Oxford.

Pineau and Stier also appeared in recent Ojai Shakespeare Festival productions. Like Sizemore and Santoyo, Joseph, Schepis and Tubbs are products of the Cal Lutheran University theater department.

Details

* WHAT: "Anne Hath a Way."

* WHERE: Plaza Players Theater, 34 N. Palm St. (in the Livery Arts Center), Ventura.

* WHEN: Tonight, Sunday and next Thursday at 8 p.m.

* COST: All seats $8.

* ETC.: For reservations or further information, call 643-9460.

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