Solemn Mockeries

Richard Creese's new play about the Englishman William-Henry Ireland, having its world premiere in a production by Independent Shakespeare Company, studies a man who, when a boy, had schoolmasters who tried to persuade his father to withdraw him from school on account of him being so stupid. In Creese's account, a one-man confession by Ireland as performed by David Melville and directed by Jeffrey Wienckowski, Ireland was desperate to please his father -- a collector of artifacts and a Shakespeare enthusiast. He was so desperate that, at the age of 18, he concocted the technical means to forge documents, testimonials, letters to Queen Elizabeth and Anne Hathaway including a lock of Shakespeare's hair, and even play scripts penned in the Bard's hand. Melville's Ireland opens the play speaking amiably to the audience but as though testifying at his own trial, arguing that he never killed anybody, he never deceived a woman or a child. His crimes were literary, and his assault was on something we call authenticity. Ireland was so fearless a fraud, he "discovered" a "lost" play by Shakespeare named Vortigern and Rowena, and aimed to get it produced -- under Shakespeare's name, of course -- just to see if his own play could pass for one of Shakespeare's. Melville has an almost preternatural gift for wry understatement and comic timing. The story, thanks to the blend of play and actor, is brutally funny and brutally sad, summoning eternal questions about the distinction between what we know, and what we think we know.
Saturdays, Sundays, 5 p.m. Starts: Feb. 16. Continues through March 10, 2013

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