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    Mrs. Shakespeare and Mrs. Behn

    Feign'd and pain'd

    The two plays in "Mrs. Shakespeare and Mrs. Behn" are less than successful in dramatizing the lives of Shakespeare's wife and playwright Aphra Behn — but the accompanying production of Behn's "The Feign'd Courtesans" is a bawdy good time.


    Running in rep with Aphra Behn's "Feign'd Courtesans" (see below) are two one-woman shows — Yvonne Hudson's "Mrs. Shakespeare" and Karen Eterovich's "Love Arm'd, Aphra Behn & Her Pen." The common themes of this theatrical event are cleverly brought together at the Tribeca Playhouse, but these pieces are not in the same league as the period piece they accompany.

    Includes individual plays: "Mrs. Shakespeare" by Yvonne Hudson; "Love Arm'd, Aphra Behn & Her Pen" by Karen Eterovich
    Cast: Yvonne Hudson, Karen Eterovich.

    The Feign'd Courtesans
    Written by: Aphra Behn.
    Cast: Lauren Jill Ahrold, Virginia Baeta, Fatima Bazzy, Valentina McKenzie, Maureen Porter, Beverley Prentice, Jill Replinger, Gisele Richardson, Ami Shukla, Carey Urban, DeeAnn Weir, Tessa Zugmeye
    Tribeca Playhouse
    111 Reade Street (at West Broadway)
    April 2-18, 2002

    Tribeca Playhouse
    111 Reade Street (at West Broadway)
    April 2-18, 2002

    Feign'd Courtesans:
    Tribeca Playhouse
    111 Reade Street (at West Broadway)
    March 29 - April 21, 2002

    Ms. Hudson's fatal mistake is neglecting to put any drama, or even humor, into the piece. She tells a story in which the only conflict is that her husband isn't home very much and that makes her unhappy. As much as I love to hear and learn about anything Shakespeare, I found the presentation uninteresting and uninformative. Hudson's fabulous period costume (by Wade Whitfield and Shawn Cleveland) isn't enough to compensate for the lack of anything fresh.

    As the writer, Hudson weaves in William Shakespeare's verse from plays and sonnets. Yet instead of infusing them with much-needed energy, Hudson the actor flattens them all into one note that smothers the originality of each character's speech, of Mr. Shakespeare's genius. And what's worse, she continually quotes him incorrectly. Mrs. Shakespeare says to her husband, "You say to bring people into the theater to hear your words." If that is what Hudson is trying to do, she's failed. There is some lovely Elizabethan music sprinkled throughout if you go in for that sort of thing — Hudson has a lovely voice — and if you know nothing of Shakespeare's life, then perhaps "Mrs. Shakespeare" could start you on your way.

    This coupla dead chicks sitting around talking is more of a history lesson than an evening of theater, but kudos to Karen for reminding us of this female pioneer.  

    Karen Eterovich has more going for her. Aphra Behn was the first female playwright to make a living at it, and she had a much more interesting life than Anne Hathaway, at least from a dramatic standpoint — she was a world traveler, a spy, and she spent time in prison. Karen's Aphra is full of life, and because I know much less about Behn than I do about Shakespeare, I found this story more interesting. Eterovich's nuanced and passionate performance made for a much faster ride, even though the length of the two shows is about the same.

    This coupla dead chicks sitting around talking is more of a history lesson than an evening of theater, but kudos to Karen for reminding us of this female pioneer. As Virginia Woolf says, "All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds."

    The Feign'd Courtesans

      Mrs. Shakespeare and Mrs. Behn
    Behn's play "The Feign'd Courtesans" is, however, a more than redeeming feature of this group of productions. What a celebration of "that glorious insolent thing that makes mankind such slaves" — women! Actually, Behn is referring to courtesans, or super high-priced hookers, but the Queen's Company has expanded the party to a celebration of the entire female sex. These barefoot bawdy babes are having so much fun on stage that it's infectious, and I left the Tribeca Playhouse with a sore face from two and a half hours of laughter.

    This all-female classical theater company doesn't shy away from anything but shoes. Sexual exploits abound, and when you mix that in with some brawls, a little song and dance, and get Rebecca Patterson to direct it, you almost can't miss. The plot is a bit too complicated to recount here, so suffice it to say, the point is: "Everyone wants to get laid. Watch how they each go about it." Sounds awfully modern, doesn't it?

    The talented cast includes the precious foppery of Tessa Zugmeyer as Sir Signal, and I began to laugh at her every entrance, anticipating antics to come. Each lady has a chance to shine, and one who absolutely takes your breath away with her beauty, presence and fine dancing style is Maureen Porter as Laura Lucretia. She gives "Seinfeld's" Elaine a run for her money. As the seriously straight Octavio, Lauren Jill Ahrold does a fine job staying above all the mayhem — literally, she's one tall chick. And she looks good with a sword. She doesn't get to fight much with it, but her posturing is gorgeous and the fights are more fun than "Celebrity Deathmatch." "Feign'd Courtesans" is a pleasure — escapism at its best. Go enjoy this energetic romp!

    APRIL 11, 2002

    Reader comments on Mrs. Shakespeare and Mrs. Behn:

  • Mrs. Shakespeare accurately quotes her husband   from Bard Devotee, Apr 14, 2002
  • All brushed up   from Heather Grayson, Apr 15, 2002
  • question   from , Apr 15, 2002
  • Mrs. S   from M. Ivan, Apr 15, 2002
  • Re: Mrs. S   from Heather Grayson, Apr 15, 2002
  • Re: Mrs. S   from frank episale, Apr 21, 2002
  • Re: Mrs. S   from P Mortensen, Aug 20, 2002
  • Re: Mrs. S   from Dawn Harris, Jan 20, 2004

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