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Into the Breeches at the Florida Rep

Into the Breeches at the Florida Rep
Into the Breeches at the Florida Rep
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Swingin’ big band music from the 1940s sets the mood as we peruse a theater space filled with props and costumes. This space was quiet, after all, as most of the men who performed here were overseas. It’s 1942 in Providence, Rhode Island, and the war is raging in Europe, the Pacific, and North Africa.

For history buffs and those who grew up in the post-World War II era, the music, costumes, props, and scenes are perhaps more memory jogging and sentimental; however, the themes and struggles presented are universal. While likely hidden from most social discourse in the 1940s, these themes are brought to the forefront in this venue of heroism, patriotism, and collaboration back home. In this regard, the entire cast, and particularly Oberon theater stage manager Stuart Lasker (Kevin Loreque) and costume designer Ida Green (Shannon Harris) successfully tug at our hearts.

You may recall your elder family members playing their 78 records to hear Bennie Goodman, Harry James, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, the Dorseys, and more. Lonely girlfriends, wives, and mothers cherished stacks of letters lovingly wrapped in ribbons, written to them by their men battling the Axis powers overseas. Perhaps your parents Lindy Hopped around the living room singing along with Sinatra. I recall my mother working as a book editor in Manhattan during that time and relaying how she and her bobby sox girlfriends commiserated and cried while also delighting in attending concerts performed by Frank Sinatra (their top choice at the time). She also enjoyed seeing Louis (Satchmo) Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald performing together.

The Providence Oberon theater is quiet and gloomy. Still, Maggie Dalton (Amy Hutchins), encouraged by her actor husband, absent and fighting overseas, believes she can assemble a cast of women to perform Shakespeare, taking the roles of men and delving into the breeches as needed. Although women took on many vocations formerly held by men, like working in factories, resistance towards women dressing as men to play Shakespearean drama was likely expected. Convincing the man in charge, a spirited Ellsworth Show (V. Craig. Heidenreich), that such a production could work wasn’t easy; however, armed with a clever wit and sensibility, Maggie finds a way to bring Snow’s wife Winifred (Jan Neuberger) into the show cast. This effectively garnered Ellsworth’s less than enthusiastic support.

There are opportunities employed by the troupe for humor. Celeste Fielding (Carol Halstead) is our prima donna who continually delights as she gleefully capitalizes on her star power and commensurate vanity. Celeste devises props to help teach women to walk like men, and the clever Maggie invents hilarious ways for Winifred to effectively evoke the mannerisms of Groucho Marx.

The tensions of life for women left alone at home are sensitively presented. It’s noted that a military man’s pay is insufficient to support a wife, let alone a wife and children at home. Subsequently and unapologetically, women donned pants and took jobs formerly held by men. A blue star was displayed in a front window for each family with members in the military overseas. If that person died, the blue star was replaced with a gold star in a home now inhabited by a gold star wife or mother.

Ingenue June Bennett (Emma Badger), and raw talent Grace Richards (Jackie Schram), who powerfully characterizes Henry the IV and V, round out the cast for a Shakespearean delight with some unforgettable surprises.

Marvelous light and sound by Joel Zishuk and wardrobe by Olivia Sands immerse us in the era, and the musical selections used during scene changes enhance the settings. The only digression from the big band, swing style music was the opening of Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man (1942), stylishly used to introduce the troupe’s ultimate Shakespearean extravaganza.

Into the Breeches runs through March 5, and you can get your tickets here or at or contact the Box Office at 239.332.4488.s

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Edward A. Kliszus

Edward A. Kliszus

Performer, conductor, and educator Edward Kliszus began his musical studies at the age of 5 and has since been deeply involved in the fine, performing, and literary arts. He is a long-time and current member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) and the American Federation of Musicians (AFM). He studied trumpet performance and music education while attending the Manhattan School of Music and was a student of Mel Broiles, principal trumpet of the New York Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. His post-graduate studies at New York University focused on trumpet and piano performance, music composition, and analysis of composer Elliott Carter's 1974 work Brass Quintet. He was music director and conductor of the New Jersey based Union Symphony Orchestra for 15 years and has performed at Manhattan's West Village venue Monologues and Madness. He currently focuses his artistic and creative endeavors on writing, music composition, piano jazz, and as a critic for and OpeningNight.Online. He holds a Ph.D. from New York University, Master of Music from the Manhattan School of Music, and Bachelor of Music from Nyack College.

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Into the Breeches at the Florida Rep

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