“Into the Breeches” at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach
This is a very funny show with a lot of heart! The setting is 1942, Providence, RI. Maggie Dalton (played by Melanie Lora) decides to honor her husband’s wishes and mount a Shakespeare play at the theater where her husband is the director. The problem is that he and almost all the men in the area are off at war. Maggie persuades a group of women, some of whom desperately need a distraction from their worries, to give it a try. So, the women step “Into the Breeches” and begin to rehearse the Henriad (the cycle of Henry IV, Part I, Part II and Henry V.)
All the performances are excellent! Katie MacNichol plays Celeste Fielding, a great lady of the theater, who, like Bottom in “A Midsummer’s Night Dream”, believes she can play all the characters. It is a great and very funny part and MacNichol plays it with gusto. Ellsworth Snow, played by James Newcomb, is a gruff businessman with a heart of gold. Winifred Snow, played by Shana Wride, finds her inner Falstaff. (It is always funny to see people who can act, on stage, playing characters who can’t act.) Maggie Dalton, Stuart Lasker, Ida Green, June Bennett and Grace Richards are all memorable characters who linger in the mind.
Although it is a comedy, it does touch on themes of homophobia, racism and sexism. The script is clever. The device of a play within a play is very Shakespearean. Actual excerpts from Shakespeare are used in a thoughtful and effective way, including the famous St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V.
North Coast Repertory Theatre is small, so every seat is good. The staging is simple, but effective. There was great use of music to create the period setting. This is great theater with many laugh-out-loud moments.