I don’t think I’ve seen a Walt McGough play I didn’t like. Add THE HABERDASHER! to the list. McHough’s cheeky THE HABERDASHER! A Tale of Derring-Do is produced by Argos Productions (running or should I say galloping at the BPT through Jan. 25th).
It’s not easy to write farce. You’ve heard the old saw about dying being easy? It’s comedy that’s hard, they say, but McGough and director Brett Marks manage to keep us in stitches as every cliché in the book is served up for satire. In a nutshell the story centers on an orphan who finds adventure despite herself when she teams up with a dashing burglar.
That sounds like fodder for a buddy movie but McGough sets his play in the Middle Ages when women weren’t allowed a “destiny,” let alone an occupation. The kind, old shopkeeper who found the babe at his door raised her as his own, hoping someday she could take over the business…a shocking idea at the time, as only men became merchants and artisans in the Medieval guild economy.
No, this isn’t a veiled sociological work about women’s rights. Well, it is but it’s also a romp. Duels erupt at the drop of a (jaunty) hat and actors perform multiple roles with practically no time to change costumes (or gender). I marveled at McGough’s skill at comedy (when I wasn’t laughing my head off) but about ten minutes before intermission, I noticed it flagged a bit. I wondered if he could recapture the outrageous audacity of the fist act.
To my surprise and delight, more giddy adventures ensue in Act II but the humor comes from an entirely different perspective. The mirth is back but now it’s because the characters are all chasing their own tails. Now you even see a character dueling with himself! Really!
Marks has a slick cast to tickle our funny bones, led by the saucy Hannah Husband who always brings a delicious, slightly off kilter kick to her performances. In close pursuit as the constable, a hilarious thug and a dashing love interest is the versatile Brendan Mulhern. Kaitee Tredway is the spunky orphan and a lithping, cape twithting bad guy…and Mark Estano brings a sweetness to the old haberdasher (but you never never want to meet his harridan!).