Actors Blake Brundy (left) and McKenna Walwyn (right) share the spotlight in the Lyric Repertory Company’s ongoing production of ‘Into the Breeches’ at the Caine Lyric Theatre in downtown Logan.
LOGAN – It’s difficult to imagine that a play set in World War II could have much to say about modern personal empowerment.
But George Brant’s Into the Breeches does and it’s a surprisingly effective learning experience.
Directed by Adrianne Moore, the Lyric Repertory Company debuted the comedy over the weekend to small but appreciative audiences.
Shakespeare’s Henry V is famous for his “Once more into the breach, dear friends” speech before the walls of Harfleur during the Hundred Years War between England and France.
In opera, however, a “breeches” role refers to any male character that is sung and acted by a female singer. That’s Brant’s gimmick here – that a company of female actors is going to try to stage a combined production of Henry IV and Henry V while their male actors are away at war.
In reality, that play would go on forever, because Brant actually borrows snatches of Shakespeare’s text from Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2 and Henry V. But that gives the playwright a chance to include the familiar characters of the rebellious Henry Hotspur, drunken Sir John Falstaff and embattled Prince Hal in the all-female show and Brant makes the most of those opportunities.
McKenna Walwyn is the director of the show who must contend with a diva actress and a boss who is dead-set against the production.
In her verbal battles with Ellsworth Snow – amusingly performed by Equity actor Christopher Kinger – Ms. Walwyn’s arguments preview all the present-day issues of women’s and gay liberation including women taking men’s roles (both on- and off-stage), equal pay, color-blind casting and gender-bending cross-dressing.
When her appeals to reason don’t work, Walwyn falls back on the oldest trick in the book by enlisting the support of Mrs. Snow, who hilariously accepts the role of Falstaff.
Mitzi Mecham plays Mrs. Snow, who finally finds her muse by channeling comedian Groucho Marx to portray Falstaff.
Blake Brundy delivers a sensitive portrayal of a gay man who comes out of the closet in a big way after being rejected by all of the military services.
Lacy J. Dunn plays Celeste Fielding, the grand dame of the Shakespeare company, who now has her sights set on the role of Prince Hal. But is she too old for the part? Alas, some prejudices never die.
The statuesque Kelly McGaw actually lands that role, gradually becoming more self-assured as the play progresses. Newcomer Kat Lee graduates from costume girl to playing Hotspur, breaking the theater company’s color barrier.
Artistic producer Paul Mitri doubles as fight director for Into the Breeches and stages an epic duel between Prince Hal and Hotspur. Ms. Lee’s interpretation of Hotspur’s death speech from Henry IV, Part 1 is pure magic.
After donning World War II military uniforms for their opening night, Ms. McGaw leads her follow cast members in the stirring “Saint Crispin’s day” speech from Henry V before the battle of Agincourt.
Never were a “band of brothers” more true in one sense and false in another.
Kudos to Sera Shearer for the set design of a bare stage, with furniture and properties stacked against the back wall. That made things very simple for the run crew.
Evening performances of Into the Breeches will continue on July 20, 23, 27 and 30 at the Caine Lyric Theatre on Center Street in downtown Logan.