Literate ladies

Mrs. Shakespeare & Mrs. Behn

Written and performed by Karen Eterovich and Yvonne Hudson
Mrs. Behn directed by Robert Edward Burns
The Queen's Company in conjunction with Cosmic Leopard Prods. and New Place Communications
Tribeca Playhouse
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Elias Stimac

This evening of two one-woman shows featured Karen Eterovich's lively look at groundbreaking female playwright Aphra Behn and Yvonne Hudson's lovely glimpse into the life of Shakespeare's wife Anne Hathaway. The separate pieces could each have filled the evening by themselves; together, they provided a historical study in contrasts for modern-day audiences.

Eterovich's play is called Love Arm'd, Aphra Behn & Her Pen and is an authoritative attempt to bring the lady writer from the 1600s to vivid life. As she speaks to an unseen lover on their last night together, Aphra quotes passages from her plays, poems, and novels while recounting her adventurous past. She had been imprisoned for overdue debts before becoming what most scholars consider "the first professional English woman writer and the originator of the novel in its modern form."

Both as a playwright and performer, Eterovich distinguishes herself with her energetic delivery and her powerful passion for the role. Robert Edward Burns staged the proceedings with alternating moments of quiet introspection and vivacious activity. Michael Ferraraccio composed and edited the appropriate music choices. Kathryn Wilson designed the elaborate costume, and Susan Pilar incorporated movement into the play. Chris Fitzgerald helped with composition contributions. Dialect experts William Breazeale, John Maguire, and Amy Stoller added their talents to Eterovich's authentic accent skills.

Hudson has subtitled her play, "Will's First & Last Love," and has written a love poem to an overlooked woman, both in her home and in history. More accessible than the Behn play, Mrs. Shakespeare shows the spouse of the Bard hard at work in their new home, continuing to do chores while addressing a group of curious onlookers who have come to see where the celebrated scribe lived.

Like Eterovich, Hudson incorporates portions of Shakespeare's works into her script, and they interweave seamlessly with her own reflections on Anne and Will's first meeting, courting, marriage, and lasting commitment. Despite his extended trips into London, she stood by her man while caring for their children and keeping his house in order. Her love was unending, and Hudson conveys it with a myriad of emotional colors.

Within the simple, uncredited setting, Hudson staged the play well (as did Burns in Mrs. Behn) and used the playing area to its full advantage. Susan Pilar again consulted on the movement requirements of the piece, while Claudia Pinza coached the actress on vocal matters. Working off a concept by Hudson, costume designers Wade Whitfield and Shawn Cleveland collaborated with Susan McMurray and Christopher Quigley, who provided accessories. Mary Ann Ivan served as music director.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2002 Elias Stimac