By Thomas Middleton & Thomas Dekker; Directed by Anais Koivisto
Produced by Everyday Inferno Theatre Company
Off Off Broadway, Classical Play
Runs through 6.21.15
The Access Theatre Gallery, 380 Broadway
by Keith Paul Medelis on 6.8.15
Malloree Hill in The Roaring Girl. Photo by Koivisto.
BOTTOM LINE: A rare and sensitive classical comedy revival.
You might have some familiarity with The Roaring Girl, even though you’ve probably never seen it. A comedy written during the later years of Shakespeare’s time and usually called Jacobean has the typical confused marriage, cross dressing, lewd humor, and of course a wedding at the end as all is forgiven.
Mary Fitz-Allard (played by Anna Clare Kerr) and Sebastian Wengrave (Jacob Owen) love each other though due to some enormously dated and unimportant reasons, their fathers (we only see one, Sir Alexander Wengrave played by Matt Walker) won’t allow the marriage. The misunderstandings and complications give way when in order to marry Mary, Sebastian will fain love for a cross-dressing, thief Moll Cutpurse (the roaring girl) so that his father will see Mary as a better alternative. There is, of course a rather wonderful clown, Trapdoor (played lovably by Max Hunter), who is sent to spy on Moll by Sir Alexander in order to figure this whole thing out.
That should get you started into the play. There are far too many twists and turns that put this review at risk of being inferior Sparknotes. I must admit to consulting Wikipedia for this synopsis. And you should too before you visit The Roaring Girl. It’ll help you follow along, scene by scene. Part of the joy and charm of Shakespeare's work is that despite getting lost every now and then, I can be pulled in with a wonderful sense of the human and lyrical. When we start to investigate the lesser-known seventeenth-century plays I feel dumb and lost in a sea of dick jokes.
And probably that’s what’s intended. What’s lovely about the Everyday Inferno production is that director Anais Koivisto has set the space up in a way that resembles both a big top circus, lounge, and a hint at the historical court masque where distinguished guests would gather in a great hall for visiting performers to be brought to them for their amusement. At your table with a bottle of wine (which may become part of the play) you laugh and applaud with the elite. Indeed, that sword play is just a metaphor for sex. Clap, clap, clap. Chuckle, chuckle, chuckle. More, please! It pulls you in close and never lets you go.
And the costumes, fresh from the period, also designed by Koivisto, place us decidedly in Middleton and Dekker’s time. It’s a choice that feels a little unsatisfying as we seek to find the relatable amongst this play. I’d have enjoyed finding the contemporary reason for producing this play a bit more with a more exciting choice.
It is so rare to find a costumed, thirteen-member Jacobean comedy anywhere in this city and if you’re into that sort of anomaly then you should definitely get thee to The Roaring Girl. If for nothing else, the swordplay is cool, the actors are enjoying themselves, and the songs are lovely. You even get to sing along to a song I can only imagine is called “He Had No Balls at All.” What’s not to love?
And if the bar and menu on every table isn’t enough to clue you in, The Roaring Girl is probably best enjoyed inebriated so you can languish in each and every thrust, stab, and jerk. Just as was always intended.
(The Roaring Girl plays at The Access Theatre Gallery, 380 Broadway, through June 21, 2015. This show plays in rep with Punk as Fuck. Check the website for specific performance times. Tickets are $18 for one play and $20 for both plays and are available at punksandprovocateurs.bpt.me or by calling 347.291.1805.)