Metro Weekly

Editor’s Pick: ‘Shakespeare In Love’ at The Keegan

Mistaken identity, gender-swapping, ruthless scheming, and backstage theatrics fill this stage adaptation of the Oscar-winning movie.

Shakespeare in Love -- Photo: Cameron Whitman
Shakespeare in Love — Photo: Cameron Whitman

“As we all recover from years of devastation by the Covid-19 pandemic,” says theater artist Douglas Dubois, “this play is a timely celebration of the life of William Shakespeare — who, as a child, survived the plague, and, as an adult, stayed in London when others fled for fear of the bubonic plague.”

The play in question is Shakespeare in Love, which you likely only know as the cinematic spectacle that managed to scoop up a surprising seven Oscars in 1999, including Best Picture, Best Actress (Gwyneth Paltrow), and Best Screenplay (Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard).

Right now, D.C.’s Keegan Theatre is presenting a regional premiere of the stage work, set in late-16th century London, as adapted in 2014 by Tony-winning English scribe Lee Hall (Billy Elliot the Musical).

“The brilliance of Shakespeare in Love comes through in its marriage of original Shakespearean text and newly written words, which lift the audience to a place of magic,” says Ricky Drummond, who co-directs Keegan’s production with Dubois, with Dubois also serving as choreographer.

Also part of the creative team is music director Tiffany Holmes, fight choreographer Ryan Sellers, plus designers Matthew J. Keenan on sets, Elizabeth Morton with costumes, Venus Gulbranson with lights, and Cresent Haynes with sound.

Terrance Fleming stars as young Will Shakespeare suffering from a severe case of writer’s block as the pressure mounts for his next blockbuster. Right on cue, along comes Ashley D. Nguyen as Viola de Lesseps, a beautiful young woman willing to do anything to star in Will’s next play.

A robust ensemble of 21 actors plus one real-life canine fills the Keegan stage, bringing to life this fictional tale, described as “a love letter to theater itself,” one full of Shakespearean tropes, including mistaken identity, gender-swapping, ruthless scheming, and backstage theatrics, as young Will is eventually moved to write what becomes Romeo and Juliet.

Shakespeare in Love -- Photo: Cameron Whitman
Shakespeare in Love — Photo: Cameron Whitman

Along the way we meet, among others, Bianca Lipford as Queen Elizabeth I, Duane Richards II as Kit Marlowe, Ryan Sellers as Henslowe, Moira Todd as John Webster, Timothy H. Lynch as Wabash, Rebecca Ballinger as Hugh Fennyman, and Nina Andjelic as Kate, just one of three characters she plays when not also serving as one of the production’s four instrumentalists.

Shakespeare in Love runs in repertory with Lauren Gunderson’s The Amazing Adventures of Dr. Wonderful (And Her Dog!), a Keegan PLAY-RAY-KA production for families.

To July 16. The Keegan is at 1742 Church St. NW. Tickets are $60. Call 202-265-3767 or visit

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