Harley Marshall never liked Shakespeare. “Not my cup of tea,” the Portland playwright and actor said. “I saw ‘Macbeth.’ A friend was in it, and it was a four-hour play. I couldn’t take it. I detest a three-hour ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ ”
Marshall, artistic director of the Daytime Players, wrote a spoof on Shakespeare in the spirit of Mel Brooks and Monty Python, “Young Billy Shakespeare’s Murray and Juliet.” He describes it as a madcap farce about the worst playwright in London, whose early flops “The Taming of the Shoe,” “A Midsummer Night’s Scream” and “Much Ado About a Hairdo” left the stumbling artist penniless and on the streets, his wife having tossed him from their home.
The Daytime Players present the comedy – it will last no more than 90 minutes, Marshall promises – at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at Schoolhouse Arts Center in Standish. The Daytime Players are a troupe of older actors, and Marshall has written original plays for them in recent years. Marshall directs a cast of nine.
He began writing the script 35 years ago with a college friend. They wrote it as a screenplay, inspired by “Blazing Saddles” and other comedies of the day. They shared an admiration of Mel Brooks’ irreverence and aspired to the timing and risk-taking of the Monty Python troupe. “The idea was to sell it as a film script, but it never went anywhere,” Marshall said. “I dug it up and adapted the story for a play. I hope my friend doesn’t disapprove.”
He can’t ask. His friend, Craig Alpaugh, has died.
Marshall’s stage experience with Shakespeare includes two versions of “Hamlet,” neither of which he enjoyed. But he learned an important lesson. “I learned that you can’t ad-lib Shakespeare.” He also learned he was better suited for comedy.
“Murray and Juliet” reflects his first love of comedy and stands as a tribute to the memory of a long-ago writing friend, who shared more than a laugh.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Schoolhouse Arts Center, 16 Richville Road, Standish
TICKETS: $10, call (207) 642-3743 or visit schoolhousearts.org