Sunday, July 16, 2017

Review of Theater RED's The Wayward Women

Once upon a time I went to a show in Milwaukee and it was called The Wayward Women. It was by Jared McDaris and it was directed by Christopher Elst. It was a Renaissance-style play about a man named Cordelius (Timothy Rebers) and his servant Julian (Zach Thomas Woods) who are stranded on an island of Amazon women, ruled by Penti Celia (Alicia Rice) with her magistress Dotara (Reva Fox). Julian decides to disguise himself as a woman so he can pretend to be Cordelius' sister to gain the favor of the Amazons. The Amazons have a festival coming up, but two of their Dames, Anu (Madeline Wakley) and Grendela (Jennifer A. Larsen), are quarreling. Cordelius and Julian fall in love with Aquiline (LeAnn Vance), who is a squire to Grendela. Pinne (Brittany Curran), squire to Anu, discovers that Julian is a man. Over the course of the play, most of the women fall in love with Cordelius and the kind of hijinks that you would expect from a Shakespearean comedy ensue. I think it is an intriguing concept to do a Shakespearean play that is written in the twenty-first century, and I am really glad to see that Milwaukee has storefront theaters like we do in Chicago.

In a show called The Wayward Women, with a mostly female cast, I was hoping it would be more feminist than it was. Even though it had a largely female cast, they mostly did not portray women as being interested in anything other than men. The plot was following men, the women were obsessed with men, and even though the women are in power, it doesn't seem to be a very well-run society. People were getting into fights all the time and no one seemed to like each other very much. I am not saying it is not okay for women to like men; all I'm saying is that if you are writing a show about women you want to not talk so much about men.

There were lots of elements that reminded me of Shakespeare. They really tried to emulate Twelfth Night. They had a Sir-Toby-Belch-like character, Grendela, who is drunk all the time and plants a letter for Anu, who is a little like Malvolio but less conceited and seems smarter until she falls for Grendela's trick. You have cross-dressing (Viola and Julian), pirates (Antonio and Flachel), and songs like Feste sings are sung by Pinne. They seemed to be just borrowing the ideas more than exploring the ideas of Twelfth Night. It was interesting to discover all the similarities, but it would have been fun if it was sometimes more of a parody or illuminated different aspects of Twelfth Night you hadn't noticed before.

My three favorite characters were Grendela, Penti Celia, and Dotara, who were all Amazons. Grendela is very impulsive and often drunk. Whenever she sees anything she wants, she tries to go and get it. She was funny and sort of stereotypical but in a funny way where they acknowledged she was a stereotype of a woman who doesn't have traditional morals. Penti Celia is the duchess and wants to keep her kingdom in order, but she doesn't always do the best job. She seemed very poised and refined, which I think was a really good counterpoint to the rest of the women in the show. Dotara was the right-hand woman of Penti Celia. She helped her make all her decisions. Everyone was sort of scared of her, but she also seemed sweet. I thought it was funny how she treated Cordelius like a child and Cordelius didn't like it very much because he wasn't used to that because be was so beloved by everyone else. I think these three female characters were my favorites because the performers really seemed to know what they were saying and what their characters' motivations were.

People who would like this show are people who like borrowing from Shakespeare, singing squires, and drunken dames. I think this is a very interesting concept for a show. It had some good elements, and it was fun to discover the different characters and plot points taken from Shakespeare plays.

Photos: Traveling Lemur Productions

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