A new Fringe Arts production by the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre is not concerned with the playwright’s tragic love stories or sweeping epics—but rather the brawls, punches and confrontations.
“Kill Will,” written by Derick Davidson and directed by Kevin McGuire, focuses on the forgotten side of Shakespeare: the physical conflicts. From the death of Mercutio in “Romeo and Juliet” to the ending of “Hamlet,” no punches are pulled as the Bard’s greatest fight scenes are explored.
The show ran from Sept. 15-19.
During the show, seven cast members show off their fighting and acting chops—a task both physically and emotionally intense, actor and Temple alumnus Steve Wei said.
“I have two scenes where I have to come on and basically start crying like that,” Wei said. “Normally in a play you have two hours to build up to that … but in this play you just come out … and then you gotta really believe that the guy you’re fighting has killed your entire family. It’s really tough stuff to just kind of drop into so quickly.”
Despite the challenges, Wei said his involvement in the piece is “a match made in heaven,” citing his past involvement in Shakespearean productions and extensive stage combat experience.
“Most recently I did ‘Twelfth Night,’” Wei said. “I was one of the twins in that, and before that, it was ‘Richard III’ at Temple. I was one of the princes. It’s kind of a long sort of history with the Bard.”
“Kill Will” auditions required actors to display acting and combat skills, Wei said. When artistic director Carmen Khan saw Wei had fighting experience, she asked him to return for callbacks—“basically just a big kind of fight playground day with the choreographer, Mike Cosenza, and it was tons of fun,” Wei said.
Once the show was cast, the actors worked “constantly on each of the scenes,” said Wei.
“It was incredibly challenging, and just kind of by the skin of our teeth in some points, and sometimes it also felt weirdly comfortable, and like just kind of coming home,” Wei said. “It was an amazing experience.”
Wei plays several characters in the show, including Macduff, Laertes and Hamlet, but his favorite scene is in “Romeo and Juliet.”
“Even by Shakespeare’s standards, it’s one of his best,” Wei said. “We do the scene where Mercutio dies. Everybody on stage is just so loving and in it with each other, like there’s no fear in that scene, because it means so much to us. It can’t go wrong any night because it’s our favorite.”
Freshman liberal arts student Trixie Steiner-Rose, who attended the play, enjoyed seeing “the fun put back in Shakespeare.”
“[The show’s] method of inserting comedy into what’s traditionally viewed as depressing was brilliant,” Steiner-Rose said. “People forget Shakespeare wrote comedies, too.”
Rebecca Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.