Skirts in the Forest
by Dangerous Dames Theatre
53 min / 14+ / Comedy / Drama / Shakespearean Buffoonery
Four Shakespearian heroines, Helena, Viola, Rosalind and Julia, are lost in the “Forest of Lost Plots”. They long to return to their plays (Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night, As You Like It and Two Gentlemen of Verona), and to their respective heart-throbs. To do so they have to map out a plan that will bypass the murder and mayhem in the tragedies, the histories, and especially the deadly Hamlet and the cursed Scottish play.
By the by, the title, Skirts in the Forest, refers to the characters, less than to their clothes.
By the by, the title, Skirts in the Forest, refers to the characters, less than to their clothes. All but Helena got lost in the forest wearing manly attire, a common cross-dressing device in Shakespeare’s plays whereby the boys who played women on Elizabethan stages would perform in masculine clothing. Rather, this double entendre uses the informal definition of skirts as “women regarded as objects of sexual desire”.
The script comments on some of the scholarly arguments about Shakespeare:
- Who wrote the canon we refer to as the plays of William Shakespeare?
- What’s the curse of Macbeth, and how should actors cope?
- How well did Shakespeare understand women?
- What are the relative merits of bare stage versus staged productions?
Lest you think this is merely a scholarly exercise, playwrights Becky McKercher and Sarah Thuswaldner have peppered the script with plenty of puns to indulge the groundlings. (One particular groaner is a play on the title of Titus Andronicus.)
Or at least it would if the cast had been able to surmount the echoey acoustics in the venue, Geneva Hall in Knox Presbyterian. Sitting four rows from the stage, a major fraction of the dialogue was unclear and difficult to understand. This may be a clever play; it was a winner in the New Theatre of Ottawa new play reading series. But it’s hard to tell with so much of the speeches hidden in the echoes. Where was the director in all this? It’s not that the five actors can’t project or enunciate. Rather, the director has reined in their projection while in rehearsal to a point that is insufficient for this 100 seat venue with wonky acoustics. Should you decide to take a chance on this play, I suggest that you sit in one of the two front rows.
Skirts in the Forest by Becky McKercher & Sarah Thuswaldner is playing at Knox Presbyterian Church (120 Lisgar St) until Saturday June 22, 2019. Tickets cost $12 online (plus a $2 processing fee) and at the door. Visit ottawafringe.com for the schedule and box office info. Read more reviews at apt613.ca/fringe.