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  • Writer's pictureKimberly Laberge

Classical meets cross-dress in Leading Ladies

Leo and Jack, second-rate Shakespeare actors, have fallen on hard times. Luckily, the perfect opportunity presents itself in the local paper - a cut of the inheritance for Steve and Max, the long lost cousins of a wealthy family. Believing themselves to be superior performers, they go undercover to con away the prize, except Steve is actually Stephanie, Max is Maxine, and the lady of the house is not yet dead. Leading Ladies is the perfect blend of living room farce and Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).

Brigid O'Brien, Phil Stepanski, Tanya Tranberg, and Noah Maguire. All photos courtesy of Katrina Smith.

Contrary to the synopsis, the text navigates the man-in-a-dress gag carefully by giving Leo and Jack access to their Shakespearean costumes only. This pushes the ridiculousness past the potentially queerphobic trope and escalates the comedy to the absurdity of wings and tinsel wigs being worn in everyday contexts.

Director Brian Zelinski uses the space at Summerstage creatively. Christopher Orth passes through the audience to make small talk and heckle Leo and Jack. Noah Maguire (Jack) and Phil Stepanski (Leo) pass through the audience and distribute business cards with their booking information. Finally, in a frenzied fast-forward, the ensemble runs all throughout the space to give an abbreviated rendition of the play's happenings.

Gayle Grier as Aunt Florence.

Aunt Florence is fantastically frightening. Gayle Grier's first entrance as the family's matriarch is a threat. Her flips back and forth between boisterous affection and firm severity keep castmates on their toes.

Tanya Tranberg, Phil Stepanski, and Noah Maguire.

Christopher Kurtz has taken the stationary living room set and given it flexibility through movable, double-sided panels at left and right. The simple adaptation allows the scene to transition into a train car and a stage at the moose lodge. Where "door comedies" often rely on the actors to bring the action, Kurtz's scenic design is practical and active.

Leading Ladies is the right choice for the Summerstage crowd - with nods to classical theatre and roots in traditional farce, the play is appealing to a wide variety of audiences. The production is full of interaction and boisterous physicality. Performances run through September 3rd.



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