She Speaks! features 16 scenes that were pulled lovingly from William Shakespeare’s texts, and woven together by The Flying Muskrat Theater Company. With the assistance of the unique compilation of scenes, Shakespeare’s women are brought to life and stand on the stage in all their beautifully crafted glory.
Approaching the amphitheater in Mason District Park, one is drawn into an atmosphere filled with nature’s finest gifts. With the wind whistling through the trees, the birds softly calling to one another, and the crunch of mulch under foot, one can understand how Shakespeare’s characters can get lost in the forest. Descending toward the stage, a very simplistic set can be seen arranged in a very modern fashion using only black rehearsal cubes. Designed by Stephan Miller, the sparse set allowed for the focus to remain solely on the actors, drawing the audience into the Bard’s words. Adding distinct emphasis to the characters and allowing the audience to adjust to the change in scenes, the costumes created by Melanie Reuter and Ava Hockenberry brought beauty and intricate detailing that added life to each specially crafted character. Every actor had a different flair in their dress and from maids to Queens; each thread was expertly placed.
As the sun set, with the light peeking through canopy of leaves at the perfect angle to light the actors, the performance of She Speaks! began with a well fitted prologue. Each text selection was grouped by genre, intertwining love stories and highlighting hilarious moments that are common in each of Shakespeare’s plays. Cleverly drawing parallels between different works, some scenes were performed simultaneously with the lines of each character intertwining to reflect the similar nature of Shakespeare’s females. Utilizing a small amount of fight choreography under the direction of Kevin Collins, the actors allowed the audience to see the challenges some of the heroines could face. Each monologue was performed boldly with every scene adding to the strength of the characters it featured. A wide array of Shakespeare’s women, whether fierce of tongue or sneaky with wit, were brought to the stage in very down-to-earth manners, articulating their common stubbornness and fiery natures.
These parts were brought to the stage by seven courageous women (Boneza Hanchock, Leanne G. O’Neill, Lisa Hill-Corley, Mealine Reuter, Rebecca Skinner, Tameka Taylor, and Rettina Stap), and three men (Jonathan Willis, Brennan Jones, and Steven Malone) to be their counterparts. Directed by Leanne O’Neill, this small cast formed multiple different pairings to create all of the different scenes. Boneza Hanchock brought the great Queen of the Nile to life, with the strong voice one would expect from a great leader. Cleopatra’s strength was contrasted by a moving scene with Lady Percy, played by Tameka Tayor, where her love for her husband is shown in the sweet words of Henry IV part 1. The hidden gem of the performance was the clever integration of Triolus and Cressida with Romeo and Juliet, featuring Brennan Jones, Jonathan Willis, Lisa-Hill Corley, and Leanne O’Neill.
Running Time: 45 minutes.
If you did not get to see She Speaks! The Flying Muskrat Theater Company will be presenting Gruesome Playground Injuries By Rajiv Joseph July 10-12 and 18-19, more details can be found on their website.