‘The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart’ at Shakespeare Theatre Company

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The Shakespeare Theatre Company has shifted venues for a start; to a cozy pub as they present The National Theatre of Scotland’s The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart.

The cast of ‘The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart.’ Melody Grove ( Prudencia Hart) with red gloves, Andrew Clark (black jacket), David McKay (waistcoat), Annie Grace (top throwing snow), Aly Macrae (hat). Photo by Drew Farrell.

A storytelling show that takes place in a bar, with five talented actors who come from afar.

The setting is intimate, the tales told are tall, the audience becomes the proverbial fly on the wall.

Experiencing the folk lore and legend and myth, of Scottish Border ballads and one researcher’s wish.

It’s a night of mystery, a night of intrigue, a whimsical comedy that must be seen to be believed.

With Wils Wilson directing and David Greig the writer, the liveliest stories could not shine brighter

than those that unfold in this enchanted night, and the journey evolves from Prudencia’s plight.

Spoke mostly in rhyme these actors do tell of the night when dearest Prudencia fell.
And not fell as in fall, though that happened physically too, but fell as in magic to a place that she knew.

To hell she did fall, an appropriate place as her life’s research had been on the topography of the space.

With wild whimsy abound and jovial moods the story starts off while Prudencia broods.

Stuck in a snowstorm after a conference intellectual, ignoring Colin’s flirtations, which are most ineffectual.

It all slides downhill from there, with the audience raptly engaged, each sound like hearing spirits freed from their cage.

A most exciting and intense experience to be had. So please do not miss it or you will not be glad.

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart captivates the audience with its wildly folkish nature, engaging them in instances of the show as it unfolds around them. The five performers weave throughout the pub room space, up on tables, over the counter ledges and all around the room, as if the pub itself were where the story unfolded. This element of in-your-face performance invites the audience in the most intimate sense right into the action of the story.

Director Wils Wilson has mapped out the lay of the show in such a way that the action is constantly shifting location, the players constantly moving about so that no one area can be played as ‘the main stage.’ This creates a sense of ambiguity that enhances the whimsy of the production all the more.

There are songs, Scottish folk songs that punctuate the opening of the show and the return from interval, and all throughout the performance as well. These lively upbeat numbers further set the atmosphere and you no longer feel like you’ve ventured in from Washington, DC but that you’ve traveled far to the tiny town of Kelso and slipped into the Scottish countryside, this bar the only refuge from the vividly described storm.

The actors are beyond stunning with their portrayals of various occurrences, everyone adapting more than one character at one point or another, save for Prudencia (Melody Grove). But her role as the title character is nothing short of sensationally stellar, her emotions clearly expressed even when simply extrapolating her inner monologue. Her frustrations are voiced clearly, her discoveries so filled with elations that the emotions carry easily to the audience, making us wish we were with her instead of just watching her. Grove’s portrayal is steeped in a deep knowledge of lore, bathed in a blissful knowledge of fairytale and filled with an ethereal energy that carries her through every moment as if she walked between the worlds of reality and myth.

She is set upon by four mischievous denizens of the pub at one point(played by Andy Clark, Annie Grace, David McKay, and Alasdair Macrae) and this particular encounter leaves her swirling into a whirlwind of enchanted madness that she nearly cannot escape. The shenanigans that these four achieve during this scene has the audience watching a dodgeball match as they volley their words back and forth to one another, physically scattered around the pub. It becomes one of the more hilarious yet frightening moments of the production.

Without giving too much away I’ll say that there are moments of chilling suspense, brilliant irony and deliciously devilish happenings that will keep you hanging on the edge of your seat. Keep your eyes out for Andy Clark who plays the slightly daft but ever heroic Colin, as well as David McKay who sets his satanic charms aflame in the role of ‘Nick.’

Come gather at the pub and encounter this tale, the comical moments will put the wind in your sails.

Melody Grove (Prudencia Hart) on the shoulders of Andrew Clark, with Annie Grace in front. Photo by Drew Farrell.

But careful just to watch lest you spend four millennia, in hell with the devil, like poor Prudencia.

So join the company for this fine folk show, and worry not should you have to venture through snow.

For this performance is well worth the price paid to get in, missing it here would be a mortal sin.

Running Time: Two hours and 35 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart runs through December 9, 2012 at DuPont Circle’s Bier Baron Tavern – 1523 – 22nd Street NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 547-1122, or purchase them online.

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Amanda Gunther is an actress, a writer, and loves the theatre. She graduated with her BFA in acting from the University of Maryland Baltimore County and spent two years studying abroad in Sydney, Australia at the University of New South Wales. Her time spent in Sydney taught her a lot about the performing arts, from Improv Comedy to performance art drama done completely in the dark. She loves theatre of all kinds, but loves musicals the best. When she’s not working, if she’s not at the theatre, you can usually find her reading a book, working on ideas for her own books, or just relaxing and taking in the sights and sounds of her Baltimore hometown. She loves to travel, exploring new venues for performing arts and other leisurely activities. Writing for the DCMetroTheaterArts as a Senior Writer gives her a chance to pursue her passion of the theatre and will broaden her horizons in the writer’s field.