Into the Breeches Review – Truth really is Stranger than Fiction

Tricia Cruz, Kevin Dulude, Jean Machie, Holly Sidell, Caroline Westheimer, and Nakasha Norwood in INTO THE BREECHES - Photo by Eric Keitel
Spread the love

INTO THE BREECHES raises an intriguing question: If there were no men around, could an all-female cast take on Shakespeare? Come to think of it, the original Shakespeare gems were staged without a single female in the show. Suppose now there were no guys around. Will vice versa work? Inspired by the true story of a Cleveland playhouse that continued performing during World War II with female actors playing all the male roles, INTO THE BREECHES was born in 2018.  As the San Diego Union Tribune wrote about their 2022 production, (INTO THE BREECHES is) “about the can-do spirit of some aspiring thespians 80 years ago, but it’s really a love letter to the boundary-breaking magic of theater and the universality of Shakespeare’s writing.” With tongue in cheek, Theatre 40 merrily presents INTO THE BREECHES in 2024.

The time is 1942, and the place is the Oberon Playhouse in Los Angeles. A huge problem has developed in the theater: 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 (Caroline Westheimer) 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 (Kevin Dulude) – clearly a healthy man of draft age – rejected for military service? And why did the suggestion that costume designer Ida Green (Nakasha Norwood) join the acting cast create outrage on the conservative theater board? INTO THE BREECHES is above all a gentle, amusing story that might sometimes verge on silly or even mildly slapstick. But with an underlying message that will resonate with today’s audiences.

Director Louis Fantasia helms the production with an eye to the funny – as well as to cultural beliefs that marked WW II society – 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 Maria Brodeur, David Datz, Jean Mackie, Tricia Cruz, and Holly Sidell.

Jeff G. Rack’s scenic design is simple and flexible, allowing actors to move props here and there as needed. Derrick McDaniel’s lighting and Nick Foran’s sound add to the merriment, as do Michael Mullen’s wide range of costumes. Overall, INTO THE BREECHES offers the audience a pleasant, occasionally sexy, comic event which still retains a PG rating.

INTO THE BREECHES runs through April 27, with performances at 7:30 on Mondays (4/1 only), Tuesdays (4/2 and 4/9), Wednesdays (4/3 and 4/10), Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and at 7:30 p.m. on Monday (4/1 only), as well as at 2 p.m. on Sundays (3/24 and 4/21). Theatre 40 is located at the Mary Levin Cutler Theatre in Beverly Hills High School, 241 S. Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90212. Tickets are $35. For information and reservations, call 310-364-0535 or go online.


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.