“Born with Teeth” at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Born with Teeth

OSF Presents the Alley Theatre Production
By Liz Duffy Adams
Directed by Rob Melrose

Ashland, OR at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Born with Teeth masthead
This two-person show is good entertainment. Witty, quick, well-acted.

The plot has contemporary playwrights William Shakespeare (Bradley James Tejeda) and Christopher “Kit” Marlowe (Alex Purcell) sparring over words, personal behavior, and sex. In talks the director has said that academics who have read the script say that nothing in the plot couldn’t have happened. However, warning! That doesn’t mean any of the interactions on stage actually happened.

The plot explores relatively recent research into Marlowe’s life. The current theory, I have been told, is that Marlowe didn’t die in a random bar fight as history has previously said. Instead, he was targeted and killed because he was involved in palace intrigue, spying and turning over innocent people to the authorities, and blatant homosexuality.

Marlowe was allowed to be known homosexual only because his lovers included powerful people but in the end powerful people were uncomfortable with what Marlowe knew and did. In the final scene Marlowe and Shakespeare say good-bye as Marlowe knows that assassins are waiting for him.

Alex Purcell Bradley and James Tejeda

Alex Purcell Bradley and James Tejeda. Photo by Jenny Graham

On stage we see Shakespeare and Marlowe flirt, a couple times very physically. Marlowe is also chronically trying to recruit Shakespeare into his spy ring, but Will refuses and insists on sticking to writing… until Shakespeare commits an out-of-character act at the end which helps end the play. (I am still shaking my head saying, “Tsk, tsk!” at Shakespeare’s uncharacteristic political deed which is best left unspecified but which makes the performance a short one-act.)

The dialogue is fast, fun, and full of the lovely feel of Shakespeare… probably because some of Shakespeare’s lines are used to illustrate the writing happening on stage.
Overall, the scenes fly by. There are a good number of good one-liners. There is sincere laughter from the audience. It’s fun. We were amused to watch the actors and we enjoyed the language, especially the words from the 17th Century.

Born with Teeth is especially engaging for Shakespeare fans who are up on the latest AI that shows which acts of which Shakespeare plays are more stylistically Marlowe and were probably written by Kit not Will.

On the whole this was simply fun to watch and hear. That’s not a bad thing, but we don’t really learn anything about their collaboration or how the possible flirtation influenced their writing or made anyone’s lives different in real life.

I am happy to have seen this theater-goers mental masturbation show which was well done but fails the “so what” test. Go see it if you’re in town.  It’s  a good    Play Rating 3 out of 5 Syntaxes

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