This regular-fellow life, says Bate, forms the raw material from which Shakespeare conjured royal courts, enchanted forests, and foreign lands. But making the case for Shakespeare's authorship isn't the central purpose of this presentation. Rather it's to raise the dim facts of the Bard's life into sharper relief, to bring his world alive. Arriving in London to better his fortune and try and shake off the shame of his father's growing debt troubles, young Will makes his way to the theater, where people arrive "on foot, or by boat, but if you could possibly afford it you'd go on horseback or in a carriage. Somebody had to look after the horses. Step forward, William Shakespeare. 500 years later he's have valet-parked your car for you. Little by little, he finds himself drawn in…"
Callow draws us in similarly; he's the best college professor you ever had, magnified by props, lighting, sound, and staging. The absence of a true story and characters makes the second act a bit of a letdown, as there's no tension to be released or resolved after the break. But overall it's quite well done. Callow's exquisite skill makes his solo-performance of numerous brief scenes, pairing the stages of Shakespeare's life with corresponding moments in the plays, a joy to watch. A play? Not really. A pleasure? Indeed.
Being Shakespeare runs through April 14 at the BAM Harvey Theater in Brooklyn.