North Coast Rep's Into the Breeches! is a Captivating Production

Directed with Heart and Performed Soulfully by a Delightful Cast 

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

 L-R Rosemarie Chandler, Taylor Henderson, Mikaela Macias, Shana Wride, Katie MacNichol, Melanie Lora - photo by Aaron Rumley 

It is the fall of 1942 in Providence Rhode Island and the men are off at war which has left Oberon Play House without its director. Determined to keep offering theatre to the community, the director's wife Maggie (Melanie Lora) decides to direct a version of Shakespeare's Henriad with an all-female cast.

Directed by Diana Van Fossen, North Coast Rep's production of George Brant's Into the Breeches not only delivers great comedy with heart. It also touches upon topics that although pertaining to the 1940s, are still relevant today. When Maggie holds auditions for the play with stage manager Stuart Lasker (Geno Carr) and costume designer Ida Green (Taylor Henderson), the call does not go as expected but, towards the end of it, a few arrive to read some lines: Winifred Snow (Shana Wride) an arts patron that along with her husband Ellsworth (James Newcomb), support the Oberon financially. June Bennet (Mikaela Macias) a young wife who is eager and outspoken, true to the cause but still wanting to have fun and Grace Richards (Rosemarie Chandler), another wife with a young son that has moved in with her mother in law while her husband is away. The Oberon's leading lady Celeste Fielding is in disbelief that Maggie will produce a play on her own without her husband's directorial eye. Still, she agrees to be in the cast in the leading role of course as the experienced thespian that she is. Rehearsals take place and Celeste takes over with comments, questions, and notes to the director like for example an added paragraph to the script that is not part of the folio. She even leads the other ladies into the rehearsal process with some added props that will help them embody the character better. 

Katie Macnichol is glorious as Celeste. Everything is in place, the comedy, the timing, the tone, absolute perfection. What I appreciated in Brant's writing, is that he goes deep into each character and explores relevant topics that are universal. Celeste being the seasoned actress that she is, is terrified of portraying an older character role. Who wants to be old right? This is a constant in women all over the world and mostly in the workplace where getting old is not necessarily a good thing. When Maggie decides to swap roles between Grace and Celeste and have her do the older character, Celeste quits with rage after putting Maggie in several pickles pointing out that if they were going to portray male roles, then they should be paid like their male counterparts. Maggie then goes to Ellsworth to negotiate salaries for the actors as well as support. James Newcomb has a short participation but it is truly humorous as the stern but very supportive husband that loves his wife. Shana Wride does such good comedy. Her Winifred is shy and clever. She starts out not knowing what to do with her craft to owning every piece of it. 

KATE MACNICHOL - photo by Aaron Rumley

Due to the need, Maggie is acting as well as directing but the production still needs more actors. Stuart raises his hand and offers to step in for a role. Questioned by one of the cast members as to why he is there with them and not fighting with the men, Stuart with an open heart comes out to the ladies but asks for discretion. Ida understands Stuart's feelings and also offers to portray a part. Maggie does not know what to do as it is tricky to have an African American woman onstage due to racial discrimination. Two more relevant and interesting topics there. Taylor Henderson is mighty yet bold as Ida Green, putting the dots in the i's and making things right. Geno Carr is sweet and loving as Stuart and a very prompt stage manager. 

Maggie agrees to both Ida and Stuart being in the cast and will convince Celeste to come back although they've lost her to a Children's production of Cinderella. The cast members come together and cheer Maggie as she brings back Celeste. During the rehearsals, there have been reflecting moments where Grace for example feels guilty for having so much fun throughout the creative process instead of being worried and/or sad because her husband is MIA. Still, grateful for the opportunity and experience, Rosemarie Chandler gifts the audience with a very tender portrayal of Grace going through all the motions and pulling through. 

It is wonderful to see Mikaela Macias spreading her histrionic wings in another production after her debut in Mother of the Maid at MOXIE Theatre. Macias imprints the energy and stumbles, a signature of being young. Mikaela is feisty but also a team player.

Marty Burnetts's set design of the backstage of a theatre is simple but cozy, detailed, and functional when doing different scenes that take place on a golf course or in Celeste's modest apartment. Renetta Lloyd's and Roz Lehman's costume designs are on point with the flowy dresses and very feminine accessories like hats, clutches, and gloves. Peter Herman did also a great job with the hair and wigs design as practically all the actresses were rocking a wig and looked the part. 

The cast of Into the Breeches! Photo by Aaron Rumley

Maggie too receives letters from her husband where she is also looking for his professional approval on all the decision-making and creative risks she is taking. Toward the end of the performance, she stops receiving them and does not know what has become of him. Stuart comes in on opening night with a stack of them as Maggie is about to give the curtain speech, she just wants to know if her husband is ok with everything to which Stuart positively nods. Melanie Lora starts holding the weight of the plot and as the play progresses she shares the theatrical cargo smoothly.

Into the Breeches is a must-see for theatre lovers and everybody else. Well-directed, well-cast, and beautifully staged. The women make a wonderful ensemble and the men definitely "round out the cast".

For more information on performance dates and times please click here

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