Into the Breeches!

This is what happens when you mix two community theatre groups into one production.

By Andrew Andrews

Brian Mathews, Deborah Coconis and Steavie Hergenrader Reed portray actors rehearsing cross-gender characters in CENTERstage Productions’ Into the Breeches!, written by George Brant and directed by Christine Crawfis at The CENTER for Performing Arts in Rhinebeck. Original photo by Rachel Karashay.

The local community theatre wants to produce Henry V, but their director and leading men are all away, fighting in World War II.

The director’s wife Maggie is determined that the show must go on, so she convinces reluctant board president Mr. Snow to allow her to assemble a troupe of all-female actors—really, anyone and everyone who shows up to audition for the thirty-three available parts.

Snow repeatedly threatens to shut down the show after company diva Celeste demands a man’s pay and refuses to perform anything beneath the starring role, and issues of sexuality and racism raise concerns about the anticipated reception of the team’s effort to “broaden” the audience (and the entire community in the process).

First and foremost an almost-farcical comedy, Into the Breeches! nonetheless challenges social norms that were widespread in the hyper-patriotic 1940s, and are still present throughout America today.

Douglas Woolley, Mathews, Reed, Tamara Cacchione, Molly Parker, Kit Colbourn, Coconis and Chantez Engeleit make up the cast. Original photo by Christine McCarthy.

Not long ago I was praising The CENTER for producing new shows faster than Brad Pitt can chain-smoke cigarettes; now they’ve gone hog-wild, hosting three different shows on the same day!

Having been somewhat disappointed by Henry V last week, I was eager to see how this production—which merges familiar faces from The CENTER with actors and a director “on loan” from County Players at the Falls Theatre—would compare to previous experiences at both venues.

I dare say, I believe Into the Breeches! is the best production I’ve seen at either location to date!

Granted, it’s not a musical, so it doesn’t benefit from the cheeky sing-along numbers in last fall’s production of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder at The CENTER. And it’s intentionally not intense, so you won’t reach the dark depth of emotion that I felt during County Players’ recent staged reading of Grand Concourse.

It may be a bit of a stretch to include this production in the Sam Scripps Shakespeare Festival, although the moments of Henry V when the cast-within-a-cast rehearsed the play-within-a-play were much more palatable than the full-length production I caught last Friday.

Truth be told, my partner didn’t enjoy the performance as much as I did, commenting that there were moments (especially during Celeste’s tirades) that seemed to drag on a little too long.

But it’s a flawless script, IMHO, with a perfect balance of laugh-out-loud comedy and dramatic undercurrents, wonderfully delivered by well-cast actors and a crew that knows what they’re doing—and personally, I felt the pacing was just fine.

For only twenty-seven bucks a seat, who could ask for anything more?

5

Andrew Andrews attended Into the Breeches! at The Center for Performing Arts in Rhinebeck on Saturday, April 2, 2022 @ 8:00pm to write this review.