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By Robert Delaney / The New Monitor
The story of the printing of the First Folio of William Shakespeare's plays after his death, and the odd assortment of quirky personalities involved in that project, is the fascinating subject of "The Mute Quire," now being given its world premiere production by Fratallanza, in cooperation with The New Theatre Project, at The Mix Studio Theatre in Ypsilanti.
This is high-energy history, devised by brothers Jim and Paul Manganello, and performed by them, along with Josh Berkowitz.
And it is a truly fascinating story that they tell. However much it might seem obvious to us that the Bard's works would be published, it was not nearly so obvious at the time. After all, the London theaters had moved on to present new plays by other playwrights.
In "The Mute Quire" we meet the key characters involved in this posthumous act of Shakespeare's story - actors who had performed the plays, the cantankerous blind printer whose personal likes and dislikes almost caused one of the best-loved plays to be lost, and the enterprising printer's assistant who obtained the rights to publish the plays as a way to save his own job.
And we learn quite a lot about what was involved in such a publishing project in those days, including the meaning of "quire" in the art of book-binding. The Brothers Manganello are delightfully and impressively innovative in the way they go about telling the story - verbally, physically and technologically. And they present their tale in the intimate black box theater of downtown Ypsilanti's The Mix, cleverly and comically making use of its possibilities.
Both of the Manganellos are also impressive as performers, as is Berkowitz, who came in from Los Angeles to be a part of this production.
This is a must-see show for anyone who loves Shakespeare. While I am pretty confident there will be more productions of "The Mute Quire," they won't necessarily be soon or in Southeast Michigan, so I am recommending canceling other plans for this weekend in order to make it to one of the few remaining performances before this opportunity passes.
SHOW DETAILS: "The Mute Quire" continues through July 1 at The Mix Studio Theatre, inside The Mix at 130 West Michigan Avenue in downtown Ypsilanti, with performances at 8 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Call 734-645-9776 for ticket information, or go to www.thenewtheatreproject.org.
Reprinted with permission of the New Monitor, June 28, 2012
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