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Theater Review: Judith


SARASOTA — On Friday, Urbanite Theatre in downtown Sarasota presented the world premiere of Katie Bender’s Judith. The play contemplates yet another alternative to the identity of the person we call William Shakespeare.

Because so little is known about William Shakespeare, there is an ongoing historical debate as to whether the actor from Stratford-upon-Avon actually wrote the canon of plays, poems, and sonnets attributed to the name or whether it was a front for another playwright, most likely a person of nobility who would have been seen as being above such endeavors.

In this imagining of an alternative, Shakespeare is being sought by Elizabethian authorities who suspect he has been consorting with Jesuits. He has a younger sister named Judith, whose short hair and boyish figure allow her to pass as a young man somewhat easily.

Judith travels to London in her brother’s stead, ostensibly to protect her sibling. However, she carries with her a passion for literature and stagecraft that soon finds her leading a double life. Judith finds that so long as she is understood to be a man, the greater world is open to her in a way that women did not experience in that time and place.

Olivia Scanlon, who conceived and developed Bender's play, stars as Judith in the single-actor performance. Scanlon is a one-woman tour de force, manically delivering what amounts to a fast-paced monologue choc full of physicality. Her endurance alone earns high praise, but it is overshadowed by the poignancy of her performance, which pulls the audience so deeply into the storytelling that they will likely find it hard to believe there was only one person on stage by the time the curtain falls.

Directed by Brendon Fox, Judith runs through Jan. 18. Visit the Urbanite website for schedule and ticket information.


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