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New one-man show takes on Richard Burbage, Shakespeare's leading man

18 Mar 2013 11:54 AM
New one-man show takes on Richard Burbage, Shakespeare's leading man

At his peak, Richard Burbage was one of the most famous actors in England. He played the vast majority of Shakespeare's most famous protagonists, including Othello, Hamlet and King Lear. However, in the years since his career ended, Burbage's fame has waned significantly, eclipsed by actors who followed him and the ever-growing acclaim of the Bard himself.

However, a new show being performed on Cape Cod hopes to change this. "Burbage!...or the Man Who Made Shakespeare Famous," a one-man show starring Neil McGarry, takes a much closer look at the larger-than-life actor and the large part he played in shaping the modern theater.

The play is set in Burbage's dressing room after a performance of "Hamlet." Despite his prodigious talents and steadily growing fame, Burbage is in a state of despair about his life and career. According to Paul Babin, who reviewed the show for the Cape Cod Times, McGarry portrays this roiling anxiety expertly. 

"[McGarry] embodies the role so fully, it's almost as though he's baring his soul when he laments that actors are mere shadows whose performances will 'end up just a fabled memory,'" Babin wrote. 

Written by experienced playwright Nichola Minella, the play traces Burbage's doubts and fears about the difficult profession of acting. Although the tenor of the performance remains contemplative throughout, there are many moments of humor, and Babin believes that McGarry's intense and introspective performance is itself well worth the price of admission.

The play, which can be seen on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through March 2, is being held at the Cotuit Center for the Arts.