Into the Breeches-How Far We’ve Come

Westheimer, Mackie, Datz. Photo by Eric Keitel.

Into the Breeches by the prolific George Brant has everything a community theatre could want: World War II, a dash of Shakespeare, and a cast primarily made up of women. In fact, Brant’s play recounts a true event when the artistic director of Cleveland Playhouse was called for service in Europe during WWII, his wife resolved to keep the theatre going with all female casts. First on the production docket: The Henriad….a compilation of all of Shakespeare’s plays concerning the Henry IV & V.

Theatre Forty’s production takes full advantage of the juxtaposition of styles to tell the tale of a Henriad that solved issues of racial and gay representation along the way.  We watch as Stage Manager Stuart Lasker (Kevin Dulude) is pressed into service as a cross-dressing performer for the show-within-the-show, while the wardrobe manager, Ida Green (Nakasha Norwood), becomes the first in this southern city to break the color barrier when she, too, takes a role. Rehearsals play out despite the disapproval of strait-laced board member, Ellsworth Snow (David Datz), who is finally won over only when his silly wife, Winifred (Jean Mackie, shows such improvemet. The rest of the cast: Caroline Westheimer, Maria Brodeur, Tricia Cruz, and Holly Sidell are hilarious as they attempt to perfect a more masculine stance, giving new meaning to “grow a pair.”

Director Louis Fantasia brings expertise as a Shakespearean director, as well as augmenting the humor in this nostalgic piece.  Theatre Forty’s traditional box set fills in for whatever is necessary, illluminated by Derrick McDaniel’s lighting and Nick Foran’s sound design. But the costumes by Michael Mullen create the all-important ingredient that grounds the play in the World War II period, including authentic military garb and great 40s evening gowns.

In the Breeches continues Theatre Forty’s menu of well produced, lighthearted fare. It’s worth noting that many in Theatre Forty’s traditional audience remember the war and its aftermath, and welcomed this amusing look back at a simpler time.

Into the Breeches, with its companion, Power and Light, closed at the end of April.  The next production, The Explorer’s Club, opens May 23rd at Theatre Forty’s Beverly Hills High School location; 241 S. Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills 90212. For reservations, phone (310) 364-0515 or online at