Constellation Theatre's Women Beware Women

I have to apologize for the delay in this blog post. I was putting it off because I knew it would not be much fun. When you find a new theatre company and each successive production delights you, you know there will come a time when you are disappointed. And that time has come for me with Constellation Theatre Company and their current production of Women Beware Women. (Note: I could only make it to this show on the first preview, no doubt some aspects have improved since then.)

Women Beware Women is written by the king of the soap opera Revenge Tragedy, Thomas Middleton (this version adapted by Jesse Berger). During the play we follow the journey of Bianca (Caley Milliken) from simple love-struck maiden to ambitious and callous courtesan. Leantio (Thomas Keegan), a working man, brings home his new bride Bianca to his less than pleased mother (Lisa Lias). They win her over, but the lovers’ bliss is soon interrupted as Leantio must depart to make money for the impoverished family. Bianca is spied by the amoral Duke (Brian Hemmingsen) who, along with the help of Guardiano (Keith Irby) and the treacherous Livia (Sheila Hennessey), rapes Bianca and seduces her into becoming his consort. The money and prestige go to her head, along with the frustration of being a powerless woman with no one to protect her, and Bianca soon embraces her role, to the downfall of all around.

Middleton gives the actress playing Bianca a tough transition to make, and Milliken doesn’t quite pull it off. And this is the problem with nearly the entire cast. Staging this Middleton play successfully requires inhabiting the outrageous appetites and bold actions of the characters and yet remaining believable at the same time. Hennessey and Felipe Cabezas, as the rich and foolish Ward, never get past playing types. Lias and Hemmingsen play their parts at one level – Lias always strident and disapproving, Hemmingsen always delivering his lines with a quiet malice. This is all the more frustrating knowing that director Allison Arkell Stockman can pretty much cast whomever she wants - I've yet to met a non-Equity actor in this town that isn't dying to work with her. So it’s unfortunate when a cast of hers doesn’t seem to be able to keep up with the material. Thomas Keegan fares best, imbuing his Leantio with a sense of the Everyman. His verse is clear, his character sympathetic, even when things turn around for him. But the result is that this unbalances the play. Leantio feels like our protagonist, the person we are supposed to follow, but this play is really suppose to focus on Bianca.

What this production does get one hundred percent correct though, is the look. Kendra Rai’s costume designs are positively inspired. They are bold, they are outrageous, they are sexy, they are period-esque, but with a twist. The costumes portray a deliciousness that is sadly missing from the performances.

2 stars
Through November 14


Allison Stockman said…
Hello! I am always delighted when you choose to cover our productions. I can confirm what you suggested - for a theatre company of our size an enormous amount of growth happens between first preview and opening. The actors have very few opportunities to run the show with all technical elements before previews.
If you are going to review our show, it would be lovely if you would come on opening or after. I would be thrilled to provide you comps to do so as I would any member of the press.
Respectfully yours,
Allison Stockman
Thanks for the offer! We will be sure to do that from now on. Cheers.

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