Theater Review: INTO THE BREECHES (North Coast Repertory in Solana Beach, San Diego)

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by Milo Shapiro on October 31, 2022

in Theater-Regional,Theater-San Diego

WOMEN IN PANTS? WHERE WILL IT ALL END?

It’s 1942 and most of the men in Rhode Island are off to war. As such, most theatres, especially those who focus on the heavily male casts of Shakespeare, are shut down. But Oberon Playhouse’s assistant director Maggie Dalton (Melanie Lora) has another idea. With her husband the primary director off to war, she asks his permission by mail to try to step into his shoes and direct an all-female cast in Shakespeare’s Henriad, a combining of Henry IV and Henry V. Maggie faces opposition from stuffy board president Ellsworth Snow (James Newcomb) whose borders are pushed time and again by Maggie’s then-progressive ideas.

Katie MacNichol & Melanie Lora

Playwright George Brant does a nice job of grounding us in the day-and-age of it all. When at times the progress seems touching on gay and racial issues in ways that were more likely to be handled this well in the 60s or 70s than the 40s, we’re brought back successfully by key lines, such as when June (Mikaela Macias) comments, “I don’t know what my husband would think about me being in pants,” reminding us that so many women saw themselves as an extension of their husbands’ belief systems. By contrast, we have Grace (Rosemarie Chandler) who recognizes her newfound freedom in ways that are both exhilarating and guilt-inducing.

Melanie Lora, James Newcomb & Shana Wride

For the most part, Breeches goes where you think it is going to with no great surprises, although one character arc, former ingénue Celeste (Katie MacNichol) coming to terms with no longer looking the age of the lead roles, is handled with a touching grace.

Taylor Henderson & Geno Carr

Mr. Newcomb is excellent in being flabbergasted by all the social progress, with touches of the late Leslie Jordan on Will & Grace (whom, I dare say, would have loved this role!). Also terrific is his wife Winifred (Shana Wride) who has no business being on stage at all, let alone in a Shakespeare play, but gets a part in a wily move by Maggie to ensnare the board president’s support.

Taylor Henderson, Shana Wride, & Katie MacNichol

Into the Breeches bills itself as a hilarious comedy and that’s kind of a shame because it’s not really written that way, by no fault of the apt cast or director Diana Van Fossen. What we have here, more realistically, is a lovely tale of a time gone by with both interesting characters and sweet, genuinely funny moments now and then. And that’s enough to make it a good night of theatre.

photos by Aaron Rumley

Into the Breeches
North Coast Repertory Theatre
987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive in Solana Beach
Wed at 7; Thurs & Fri at 8; Sat at 2 & 8; Sun at 2 & 7
ends on Nov 13, 2022
for tickets, call 858.481-1055 or visit North Coast Rep

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