REVIEW: Born With Teeth

Born With Teeth. A line penned by Shakespeare…or was it?

Shakespeare is credited with the works of Henry V, Parts 1 and 2, but scholars have recently discovered that Shakespeare wrote them with a collaborator, likely Christopher (Kit) Marlowe. Playwright Liz Duffy makes this discovery the premise of her play, set against the backdrop of the political turmoil at that time: a Protestant Queen (Elizabeth I) keeping close watch on any Catholic subjects via a network of spies, resulting in a totalitarian state where many were in constant fear for their lives.

Kit and Will are the sole actors for the 90 minute stage production, a performance that demands much of these men: if not physically, then certainly mentally, and seemingly emotionally as well. At this time in history, Marlowe is the more well-known of the two, and Shakespeare is somewhat at Kit’s mercy, beseeching his arrogant, reckless companion to “just write.” Marlowe is the son of a shoemaker (historical fact), Duffy writes him as one who has managed to work his way into a finer lifestyle via “powerful friends” – the powerful friends being the Queen’s spies (not historical fact).

Marlowe is portrayed as a tortured man, believing in the darkest of human nature and wanting his pleasure while he can get it. After all, if the world is burning (and in 1591, it was for many), then Kit will take what he can. In contrast, the idealist Will wants to make the world a better place. They both have secrets that make them vulnerable: Marlowe is an atheist, Shakepeare’s family is Catholic, and the two are constantly at moral and artistic odds. But they manage to write well together, so much so that they are commissioned to write a sequel.

In this version of events, they also fall in love.

Marlowe is arrested, and bargains for a few days of freedom. In the time he has left, Kit asks Will to meet him. Shakespeare does. And what happens next, well, you’ll have to find out for yourself. At curtain close, the gentleman behind me said “I didn’t see that coming.’

Neither did I.

Born with Teeth is playing at the Guthrie’s McGuire Proscenium Stage from March 4 – April 2, 2023. Tickets start at $31. Please note that the content is adult, including sexual innuendo and some violence.
Review by Kavita Battula; photo by Lynn Lane