Entertainment » Theatre

Into the Breeches!

by Will Demers
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Feb 2, 2018
Anne Scurria and Phyllis Kay in "Into the Breeches."
Anne Scurria and Phyllis Kay in "Into the Breeches."  (Source:Trinity Rep)

The year is 1942, and the men of Providence, Rhode Island are off fighting the Axis enemy. Their wives and girlfriends are left to fend for themselves and to worry about whether they'll ever see them again. Maggie Dalton has a problem: her husband Andrew has always called the shots at the Theatre where she works, and now she wants the show to go on: Shakespeare, a four-hour long show, but with an all-female cast. And while this may not seem shocking by today's standards, 76 years ago it was practically unheard of.

But this isn't the main focus of "Into The Breeches!" which brings forth Maggie's (Anne Scurria) idea to direct the show using her husband's notes and charts. Pitching to the theatre's resident diva Celeste (Phyllis Kay) isn't as easy as getting stage manager Stuart (Stephen Berenson) and costume designer Ida (Lynnette R. Freeman) on board. As both are by her side, Celeste is convinced that in this man's world of WWII America, ladies cannot play men, and certainly a lady cannot direct a play! Only when Maggie convinces her that she can play anything (catering to her vanity) does Celeste agree to play the son of a king.

Setting forth the daunting task of filling no less than thirty roles, a small host of applicants come forth to audition. There's June (Meghan Leathers,) a perky, modern young woman who is eager to try anything, Winifred (Janice Duclos,) whose husband is the theatre's owner Ellsworth (Timothy Crowe) and who hasn't much talent except to be a good wife, and Grace (Rachael Warren) a shy and uncertain lady. Beyond all of this, Maggie has to convince Ellsworth that this show will bring ticket sales to a new high. But this is only the beginning. Playwright George Brant weaves a comedic tale on the surface but hits upon racism, sexism, ageism and loss.

This rich script fleshes out each character in turn, without spending too much time on them; Brant is deft at this, as well as physical comedy, of which there isn't much, but the talented cast brings the show to vibrant life as only Trinity can. Leathers is bright and funny as the bubbly blonde ingenue - this reviewer will be watching for her in other performances. Berenson, following his star-making turn in "Death Of A Salesman" last year, is giddy as the closeted gay stage manager. Freeman's Ida is sweet and strong and is one to watch as well.

Rachael Warren gives us a heart-wrenching portrayal of a woman who just wants her husband home as she seems lost without him to guide her. Crowe's Ellsworth is absolutely hysterical - he is skilled at these sort of roles - and Duclos' Winifred is funny to see, just wait until she dons a beard to play her role! The always-versatile Scurria delivers a grand performance as Maggie; sweet and unsure, we feel her need to fight for these ladies. But Kay's Celeste is the grand dame of her fictional theatre, and this one as well; she is incredibly funny and almost steals the show.

Director Tyler Dobrowsky has the best cast to work with, along with Cameron Anderson's simple set design and the fun period costumes by Olivera Gajic. The show will make you laugh out loud, clap enthusiastically and shed a tear or two - no small feat. This show-within-a-show is a must see and a great break from the winter doldrums.

"Into The Breeches!" is running through February 25th at Trinity Repertory Company 201 Washington Street, Providence, RI 02903. For information or tickets, call 401-351-4242 or visit www.trinityrep.com.

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