Rob Crisell’s one-man show makes Shakespeare delicious, not daunting

“It’s a prequel to “Will in the Woods,” said Stratford Players founder and artistic director Marsha Kennedy of the company’s next production, Rob Crisell’s one-man Shakespeare exposition “Red, White and Bard,” — a delightful romp designed to make the bard’s words and wit a bonny banquet, not a deadening diatribe.

“Will in the Woods,” celebrating its sixth season this year, is Stratford’s annual Shakespeare bouquet, its gift to Idyllwild, demonstrating the company’s commitment and dedication to the works of William Shakespeare and his unparalleled status as the greatest writer in the English language.

Was Shakespeare a bitter pill for many in high school? Then attend RW and B to find saucy seductions, silliness, eloquence and words of such exquisite beauty that you will be moved to tears.

Crisell is an accomplished actor who knows how to deliver Shakespeare’s words so they do indeed “fall trippingly on the tongue.” Attend to hear Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter as music. Crisell’s easy-going personality and likeability add to how smoothly he guides his audiences through Shakespeare’s worlds of imagination.

Crisell’s message if you hated Shakespeare in high school, is that Shakespeare wrote plays that were meant to be acted, lived fiercely and fully on stage, with unveiled and unrestrained passion. On the page, especially to the uninitiated, his words can seem daunting and dull. But when lofted into a hushed theater by actors who breathtakingly speak and experience the Bard’s wild panoply of emotions, Shakespeare is, in a word, thrilling.

Crisell offers a playful primer for Shakespeare showing how to understand his words and how they are relevant today. With the help of stuffed animals as props, and wry cultural references, Crisell demonstrates how “Independence Day” could be a literary cousin to “Henry V” and how the “Lion King” is perhaps just “Hamlet” on safari.

Said Crisell, “If in high school, Shakespeare’s words felt unwelcome and of uncertain value, my goal with RW and B is to make Shakespeare’s works exciting, approachable and memorable.”

Come to see “Red White and Bard,” and you’ll be entranced by what once felt enervating, excited by what once felt stilted.

Said Stratford cofounder, writer and actor Chris Morse, “[Shakespeare] is meant to be lived and breathed and taken to one’s heart. That’s how you discover that William Shakespeare, with all his laughter, sorrow and fierce drama, speaks to a universal human experience.”

There will be only one performance, at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16, in the auditorium of the Christian Science Church at 25970 Cedar Street, Idyllwild. Written and performed by Crisell, RW and B tickets are $10 each or two for $15 — available at the door or on Stratford’s website, www.stratfordplayers.com.

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