The Women's Shakespeare Company was founded by Kelly Ann Sharman to provide opportunities for women to transcend limitations of gender and race by producing Shakespeare with all-women casts. The Bard's light-hearted romp was updated to the free-wheeling early 1960s, replete with pop-art ensembles, false eyelashes, and hats Jackie Kennedy would have cherished. Music of the Beachboys, Jan and Dean, Gene Pitney and other icons of the period underscored the fast-paced fun. The performances were uniformly top-drawer with some truly inspired comic characterizations.
King Ferdinand of Navarre has convinced his disciples to embark on a scholarly regimen eschewing most earthly pleasures, including women. His plans progress reasonably well until the arrival of the French Princess and her entourage of beautiful attendants. Despite noble intentions, the young men, including the King, eventually fall prey to the women's charms, but just when everything seems to be working out, the Princess receives news of her father's death. Now in mourning for the year, the Princess and her ladies must put off their romantic commitments until the 12-month mourning period ends. Their devoted swains promise to wait for their hard-won conquests, and the audience can only hope love will conquer all.
Director Christopher Briggs guided his lively, game cast through delightful comic escapades with hilarious results. Catherine McNelis endowed the King with a gentle, fun-loving nature, as he struggles to maintain decorum among his high-spirited charges. Sharman as Longaville, and Clayton Dowty as Dumaine, were fun-loving Ivy-league charmers, and Karen Sternberg's Berowne was a fast-talking comic tour-de-force, effortlessly stealing every scene she was in. Dorothy Abrahams was a suitably pompous, posturing Armado, and Kelli Lynn Harrison an over-the-top delight as the put-upon Moth. Ellen Lee was a sexy, commanding Holofernes, and Amy Rhodes an appealing Costard.
Kate Hess, who resembled a young Patty Duke, was an ideal Princess, subtly elegant but never afraid to enjoy herself. Jillian Hahn played Jaquenetta and Rosaline with saucy charm, Melissa Bonaguide was a chic, sophisticated Katherine, and Rachel DiCerbo a glamorous Maria. Fine support was provided by Emily Mitchell, Laura Benedict and Constance Zaytoun.
Jay Ryan's simple, functional set and light design were easy to look at, and Alejo Vietti and Kimberly Glennon provided magnificent period costumes and accessories that pulsed with color.
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Copyright 2001 Julie Halpern