Speakest thou to me, pal? En garde!
Fights - with swords (broad and not), daggers, rapiers, pikes, and cutlasses, plus various arm-twistings and foot-stompings - are front and center in this gleeful kill-fest, featuring the most violent, difficult, and hazardous-to-actors fight scenes from Shakespeare's plays. Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre highlights the scenes that keep the combat choreographers in business.
This collage of the "bloody bits" was written by Derek Davidson and directed by Kevin McGuire; the opening gambit is the famous "O for a muse of fire" speech from Henry V, over-emoted by Deaon Griffin-Pressley, who is silenced by a punch in the mouth. And we're off.
The rest of the cast - Zach Aguilar (a "swain," indeed), Alexander Eltzroth, Julia Jensen Ray, Aaron Kirkpatrick, William LeDent, and Steve Wei - are, likewise, great fun to watch. Kill Will is an entertaining hour.
There's the brutal wrestling match from As You Like It, the Edmond and Edgar duel to the death from King Lear, a goofy scene from the horrific Titus Andronicus (the "earliest spit take in history"), and the final scene of Hamlet "as you have never seen it."
Lowlights are the collection of famous passages recounting, secondhand, the deaths of characters; this part of the show feels like an excuse (an understandable temptation) to let these actors do their actorly thing.
Highlights are the hilarious Taming of the Shrew battle between Kate and Petruchio, the great, fast sword fight between Romeo and Juliet's Mercutio and Tybalt (Ray shines in both these scenes) with lots of style and lots of action, and a very funny Pyramus and Thisbe bit ("bad community theater from Shakespeare's time") from A Midsummer Night's Dream with Snout as a Sly Stallone sort of wall with the famous chink.
The point of the production is clear: No matter what you do, you "can't kill Will."
Through Saturday at the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre, 2111 Sansom St.
Tickets: $15. Information: 215-413-1318 or www.fringearts.com.EndText