Set in Long Beach – the home of the International City Theatre – INTO THE BREECHES raises an intriguing question: If there are no men around, can women take on Shakespeare? After all, the original Shakespeare gems were staged without a single female in the cast. Suppose now there are no guys around. Will vice versa work? With tongue in cheek, the International City Theatre merrily presents INTO THE BREECHES.
The time is 1942, and the place is Long Beach. A huge problem has developed at Long Beach’s Oberon Playhouse – must they cancel the season opener, an ambitious combination of Shakespeare’s “Henry IV” and “Henry V” which they’ve dubbed “The Henriad?” It seems that all the male members of the company are off fighting overseas – and only the ladies remain. Maggie Dalton (Meghan Andrews) thinks that it’s possible (after all, look at Rosie the Riveter) and is certain that her now-absent husband/director would heartily agree. Somehow, the task will be left to a motley assemblage of passionate but inexperienced performers, newcomers, and production team wannabes. The audience will discover that the result is a cute and funny tale of excitement over experience, passion over logic, and heart over head.
Playwright George Brant’s concept for the comedy is both clever and creative. Among the laughs are tucked little “secrets” of the World War II era: Why was stage manager Stuart Lasker (Lee James) – clearly a healthy man of draft age – rejected for military service? And why did the suggestion that costume designer Ida Green (Sydney A. Mason) join the acting cast create outrage on the conservative theater board? INTO THE BREECHES is also a gentle, amusing story that sometimes verges on silly or even mildly slapstick.
Director Brian Shnipper helms the production with an eye to the funny, amply assisted by cross-dressing actors and some interesting dangling “props.” The ensemble cast works hard to keep the jokes and laughter coming and includes Emilie Doering (Grace Richards), Brooke Olivia Gatto (June Bennett), Nicholas Hormann (Ellsworth Snow), Holly Jeanne (Winifred Snow), and Leslie Stevens (Celeste Fielding). Tim Mueller’s scenic design is flexible, allowing actors to move props here and there as needed. Donna Ruzika’s lighting and Dave Mickey’s sound add to the merriment, as do Kimberly DeShazo’s costumes. Overall, INTO THE BREECHES offers the audience a pleasant, occasionally mildly shocking, comic event which still retains a PG rating.
INTO THE BREECHES runs through June 25, 2023, with performances at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The International City Theatre is located in the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center at 330 East Seaside Way, Long Beach, CA 90802. Tickets are $49 on Thursdays through Saturdays and $52 on Sunday matinees. For information and reservations, call 562-436-4610 or go online.