Reviewed by Tony Annicone
The latest show at Trinity Repertory Theatre is “Into the Breeches” by George Brant. This show is set in Providence in 1942 and there is a problem at the Oberon Play House. The director and the leading men are all off to war. Determined to press on, the director’s wife sets out to produce an all female version of Shakespeare’s “Henry V”, assembling an increasingly unexpected team united in desire, if not in actual theatre experience. Together they deliver a delightful celebration of collaboration and persistence when the show must go on. It takes a delightful look at women’s experiences during World War II.
The themes of patriotism, sacrifice and victory are just what the audience needs according to Maggie, the director’s wife who must convince the Board that the show must go on. Through all their struggles to pull this show off, they must muster their courage and head into the breeches to confront and conquer all obstacles thrown in their way including race and gender issues. This show fills us with warmth, thoughtfulness and especially laughter to sustain us during times of stress. Tyler Dobrowsky also directed last season’s highly praised “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with keen insight into the Shakespearean characters and uses his directing prowess to elicit comic performances from this talented cast, too.
Tyler gives his cast some clever shtick to perform as well as some heartfelt and emotion packed moments. Author Brant needs to tighten up the script for Act 1 which is long and drawn out. Act 2 fares much better with more of a mixture of comic and dramatic moments which hold your interest to the final moments of the show. Anne Scurria as Maggie is onstage almost the whole show as she tries to shape her performers into the roles they are playing. Phyllis Kay is phenomenal as Celeste, the company diva. She commands the stage in this role, stealing almost every scene she’s in. Celeste demands the leading role and when Maggie tries to change it, Celeste leaves in a huff. She will go and play Cinderella at a children’s group in Woonsocket. However the allure of playing the death scene of Henry IV is strong enough to bring her back to the fold. Phyllis’ every line strikes pay dirt and she reminds you of comic Tallulah Bankhead with her deep voice delivery of lines. Brava.
The most poignant performance is given by Rachael Warren as Grace. Her husband is MIA and she hides it from the other women but breaks down in the second act to confess what is bothering her to Maggie. Timothy Crowe is very comical as Ellsworth, the head of the board who turns down Maggie at first but changes his mind when wife gets bitten by the theater bug. There is a golf scene and a drag scene with Maggie that has to be seen to be believed. Janice Duclos is a hoot as Winifred, his wife. Winifred is a dreadful actress who is playing Sir John Falstaff but can’t deliver a comic line to save her life. That is until they convince her to say her lines ala Groucho Marx which brings the house down with laughter. Rounding out the cast are Stephen Berenson who plays Stuart the gay stage manager, Lynette Freeman as Ida, the costume designer and Megan Leathers as June, the ingenue. They add to the merriment of the show. So for a look at a brand new script especially written for Trinity, be sure to catch “Into the Breeches” for a rousing good time with a bit of nostalgia thrown in for good measure.
INTO THE BREECHES (25 January to 25 February)
Trinity Repertory Theatre, 201 Washington Street, Providence, RI
1(401)351-4242 or www.trinityrep.com