Friday, August 25, 2017

Review of The Fair Maid of the West at Oak Park Festival Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Fair Maid of the West. It was adapted and directed by Kevin Theis from the play by Thomas Heywood. The fight choreography was by Geoff Coates. It was about a young woman named Bess (Amanda Forman) who is a barmaid and falls in love with a man named Spencer (Zach Livingston), who kills a man in self-defense and then he goes to Belgium with his friend Captain Goodlack (Debo Balogun). When Bess believes Spencer has been killed, she sets out to claim the body. She makes a crew out of a self-obsessed patron of the bar, Roughman (Aaron Christensen), the goofy bartender, Clem (Bobby Bowman), and Goodlack. They have many adventures along the way, including being shipwrecked on a very crazy island ruled by a misogynistic and indecisive king, Mullisheg (Jack Hickey), and his queen, Tota (Melissa Carlson). It is about determination, female power, and redemption. I think that this is a really fun and clever show. I liked it.

There were a lot of really funny parts to the show. One of my favorite funny characters was Roughman. He was harassing Bess, which doesn't sound funny, but he has a change of heart when he learns that he wasn't dueling with a strong strapping man but with Bess pretending to be a man. It was really funny and awesome when he discovered who she was and bowed down to her. I also really liked Alcade (Mark Lancaster); he was Mullisheg's attendant and he was just trying not to lose his job and trying to get everyone hyped up about the king. It was funny to see him struggle to try and please the king and also trying not to reveal to anyone that the king was making a lot of bad decisions. There was also great and humorous audience participation. They give you muffins at the top of the show to hurl at people giving the curtain speech. And they also gave out "flippies" which were flags to wave when Mullisheg, the King of Fez, would come out.

I thought the set (designed by Michael Lasswell) was really cool. I really liked how they used older technology to hoist open a door that they put a bed behind that they would then pull out. I thought it was cool how many levels there were and how they looked like a ship but could also be other locations. I also liked where the fights were placed throughout the show; they all furthered the story. My only complaint was that sometimes the fights seemed slow and didn't seem very captivating because of that. I really liked the fight that Spencer had with Joffer (Drew Mierzejewski) and his guards (Kate Booth, Bill Gordon, Ken Miller, and Bryan Wakefield). I thought it was cool how they did an outnumbered battle, but it was still really badass to watch whenever Spencer would defeat someone.

The play seemed really modern even though it was written a long time ago during the Renaissance. They made it so it was more of a heroic story for Bess and she wasn't a damsel in distress; the man was the one being rescued. I think that is very good for such an old play. I thought it was cool how they had two of the sidekick characters to Bess start out as not her friends but as her enemies. They each had a redemption story. Goodlack is going to take her inheritance by shaming her, but instead he apologizes once he sees what she is really like. And Roughman starts out harassing her and ends up respecting her. I think that Bess shouldn't have forgiven them quite so easily, but it made for an interesting group of people to be on her expedition. I haven't seen very many Renaissance plays that are so focused on the redemption and don't just end the play the minute it happens.

People who would like this show are people who like awesome sets, newfangled old plays, and hype about the king. I think that people should go see this show. It is a good story with great actors and lots of funny moments.

Photos: Cole Simon

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