Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

Born with Teeth
Aurora Theatre Company
Review by Patrick Thomas

Also see Patrick's recent reviews of Hippest Trip - The Soul Train Musical and Odyssey

Dean Linnard
and Brady Morales-Woolery

Photo by Kevin Berne
Imagine yourself in a pub in Elizabethan England, around 1592 or so. As you quaff your tankard of ale or sip at your goblet of mead, you begin to hear a bit of a ruckus from a private room near the back of the establishment. Being a naturally curious sort, you take a seat where you can press your ear against the wall to more clearly hear what all the fuss is about. That's a little bit what it's like to experience Born with Teeth, Liz Duffy Adams's play, which opened this week at Aurora Theatre Company in Berkeley. Born with Teeth imagines an encounter between the two most famous playwrights of the era, William Shakespeare and Christopher "Kit" Marlowe. But instead of merely eavesdropping on the conversation/conflict between the two men, we in the audience get to be the proverbial flies on the wall, listening and watching every moment of their interactions.

And what interactions! As one would expect from two of history's most notable playwrights and poets, Will (Brady Morales-Woolery) and Kit (Dean Linnard) spar with each other using their most powerful weapons: their wit and gifts for language.

The two have come together ostensibly to collaborate on a play chronicling the reign of England's King Henry VI. Scholars have speculated (using software to identify distinctive language patterns used by the writer[s]) that Shakespeare's Henry VI may have had more than one author, and Marlowe is considered the most likely co-writer.

What follows is 75 intermission-less minutes of insults, barb-slinging, political intrigue, and sexual tension that–under the skilled direction of Aurora's artistic director, Josh Costello–explores the nature of patronage and power. And while it only rarely touches on the vagaries of artistic collaboration, the interaction between Kit and Will illustrates collaboration of a very different sort.

Tensions are high from the very first moments that Will and Kit meet. Kit's giant ego is on full display: when Will tells him "It's an honor to work with you," Kit rapidly agrees. When Will worries Kit might be imbibing a bit too heavily to work productively, Marlowe gestures to the papers lying on the table and retorts "This I could write sodden to unconsciousness."

Kit, played with a delicious venom by Linnard, is very much the aggressor in this dyad, but the Bard–even at this young age (though he and Kit were born but two months apart)–has some arrows in his quiver that he will ultimately use to great (and devious) effect.

Both actors give gripping, energetic, thrilling performances. They use the stage almost like a boxing ring, circling each other, stalking each other, testing the other's limits over and over again. They clearly relish speaking the text Duffy has given them, which is filled with clever and cutting bon mots. Linnard's and Morales-Woolery's precise diction and sonorous timbres only increase the pleasure of eavesdropping on this delightful–if imagined–conversation.

Born with Teeth runs through October 1, 2023, at the Aurora Theatre Company, 2081 Addison Street, Berkeley CA. Shows are Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m., Thursdays-Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $20-$65. For tickets and additional information, please visit or call 510-843-4822.