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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
Amias, by Thomas Penn Johnson, is a theatrical play set in Elizabethan England. Johnson primarily uses inns and taverns as settings, where multiple characters discuss philosophy, religion, law, the succession of the monarchy, and the climate of the time. These scenes are lively and diverse, as the characters run the full spectrum of 16th-century social hierarchy. Amias has sought the help of Francis Bacon, a man of political influence, with whom he'd had an affair in his youth. Amias and Bacon have an emotional reunion, although Bacon is hesitant at first to assist Amias, who has come as an emissary. Sotheran, Bacon's footboy, witnesses the interaction, and it is later revealed that he too pines for another. Meanwhile, the rising action surges forward with social maneuvering, religious machinations, murder plots, and spycraft all converging at a famed bridge.
I was initially drawn to Thomas Penn Johnson's play, Amias, not for the very real, although highly fictionalized, character of Francis Bacon, but because of Edward Coke, whose Institutes of the Lawes of England volumes are still held at the UK Supreme Court law library. There are a lot of pieces that playwright Johnson perfectly puts together that make his work here excellent. The dialogue is exceptional. Think Shakespeare in how it sings but made accessible through better staging and modern hindsight, the latter of which is skillful enough to take nothing away from the time. I loved that Johnson mixed in players that really existed, although they were adapted to fit the narrative. The standout is Alice, who is here a barmaid in her 20s but someone altogether different in real life. Every time she burst onto the scene, it was bliss. Overall, this is a thoughtful, fun, and well-written play, and if it makes its way into a house, Johnson can count me in to fill a seat.