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Self-discovery and Shakespeare

Strong acting duo drives Williamston’s latest productions

She owns the stage. Terry Heck is “Prof ” in John Murrel’s “Taking Shakespeare,” the latest production to hit the stage at Williamston Theatre. Prof is perhaps the last in a long line of old school English professors, warrior spirits of an era where classic literature was a teaching tool for helping students discover not only their own voice, but also their own mind and thoughts.

Heck brings to life an archetypal character familiar to those of us who majored in English because we wanted to write, to be inspired by passionate thoughts, to feel something throughout, and at the end, of a workday. Prof is at the end of her academic days, her tenure disintegrating under the pressures of disinterested students who are no longer attentive to her deconstructive exegesis of the Bard’s masterpieces. “Where did the living person I used to be go?” she wails.

Enter Michael Lopetrone as Murph, a late-blooming 24-year-old whose mother, the dean of humanities at a small college, arm-twisted him into taking a class on Shakespeare, complete with one-on-one tutoring with Prof. Mom thinks he has low expectations of himself. He’s been bumping along, traveling internationally for years — maybe trying to find himself, maybe not, a “whatever” kind of guy who enjoys playing video games.

Can this relationship happen? Can these opposites be saved? Resoundingly, charmingly, yes. At the heart of this play — and there is plenty of heart — is the intellectual intimacy and emotional honesty of a relationship between professor and student. Heck and Lopetrone are a perfectly mismatched pair of beautiful losers who, through an analysis of the motivations of the characters in “Othello,” find deeper meaning, an understanding of what it means to be passionate about life.

As we listen to Murph’s ever-deepening analysis, his exploration of what “Othello” is really about, we see him transform, come fully alive under the challenging Socratic questioning of Prof.

And while Heck owns the stage, Lopetrone owns the chaos and confusion of Murph’s adolescent struggles. They connect — oh boy, do they connect — and we connect with them. Audience members of all ages, but especially the elders in the audience, will see aspects of themselves in both characters. We remember our own confused, youthful journeys into selfawareness, with classic literature revealing the depth and nuance of our world. “ Taking Shakespeare” stays with you, stirs up questions, reminds us of our higher selves and of what we strive for in relationships in life.

“Taking Shakespeare” Williamston Theatre Through to Sunday, June 18 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday $25 Thursday/$30 Friday and Saturday evening/$27 matinee/$10 students/$2 discount for seniors and military Williamston Theatre 122 S. Putnam St., Williamston (517) 655-7469, williamstontheatre.org


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