Theater RED's Shakespeare-Inspired 'Wayward Women' is a Mash-up of Role Reversals
What’s this? A new Shakespeare comedy recently unearthed from some dusty archives? Not quite. A new play written in Shakespearean verse by Chicago playwright Jared McDaris, Wayward Women, is playing at the Alchemist Theatre.
The Theater RED production, directed by co-founder Christopher Elst, underlines the company’s goal to present meatier roles for women actors. Wayward Women is a mash-up of sorts that alludes to characters and situations from many of William Shakespeare’s plays. The twist here is that the roles are reversed, with women taking the “men’s” parts, and a pair of men assuming the submissive “women’s” roles.
It begins with two men who are washed ashore in a strange land ruled by Amazons. They are alerted to the male-female situation by a male pirate (Bryan Quinn), right before he leaps into the water and swims away from the island.
Wayward Women is a fast-paced, wicked romp that doesn’t require any previous knowledge of Shakespeare plays. (It might be a bit funnier if one knows the Shakespeare characters that appear in some form in Wayward Women.) But the show doesn’t really have anything to offer other than entertainment.
The Amazon “Duchess” is played by Alicia Rice. She’s the most believable of all the characters, which also include two feuding Amazon knights (Jennifer A. Larsen and Madeline Wakley). As in many of Shakespeare’s plays, some minor characters are more interesting than the main roles, and that’s true with the squires who attend each knight (Brittany Curran and LeAnn Vance).
Interestingly, these empowered women end up vying for the attention of one of these male intruders who washed up on their shores. Timothy Rebers gives us a testosterone-fueled Cordelius—the hunk that has these women salivating. Cordelius, who is infatuated with a girl from Switzerland, puts aside loneliness to caper with the women at hand. In an initial effort to gain the women’s sympathy, he has his valet (Zach Thomas Woods) pose as a woman. Woods needs to tone down his performance to realize his character’s full comic effect.
Before the show ends, many Shakespeare–themed plot devices such as switched identities, forged letters, swordplay and mistaken intentions all appear before us. Wayward Women can’t hold a candle to Shakespeare’s writings, but its goofy antics are good for an evening of laughter.
Through July 22 at the Alchemist Theatre, 2569 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. For tickets, visit theaterred.com.