‘Wayward Women’ humorously meanders at Alchemist

By JULIE McHALE - Post Theater Critic

July 20, 2017


Alicia Rice as Duchess Penti Celia is flanked by Abigail King, left, and Niko King in “The Wayward Women” by Theater Red.
Traveling Lemur Productions

MILWAUKEE - There are times when reviewers are stumped for words after seeing a play. This is one of them for me.

The Elizabethan comedy “Wayward Women” by Jared McDaris is not only not very funny, but I’m not sure just where it was going. It was trying to say something about the differences between the sexes, but just what that message was came across as quite muddled.

This Shakespearian-wannabe playwright dabbled in lofty language, which the energized actors executed with vigor, but the end result was not all that satisfying.

Two men, Cordelius and Julian, ostracized from their own country for some vague sexual indiscretion committed on the part of Cordelius with his girlfriend Charlotte, find themselves headed for an island occupied by women only. 

In order to gain entry, Cordelius suggests that Julian dress like a woman, so they will be more readily accepted.  They are welcomed by Duchess Penti Celia and are soon getting a lot of attention as women compete for Cordelius’ affections.

The women are a rather contentious lot as they vie for power and rank. There is some sort of pecking order here - Duchess, Magistress, Amazons, Dames and Squires. They will even resort to violence, which proves that neither gender is immune to it.

All societies seem to be rampant with conflict, even the so-called gentler-sex varieties.

Despite the fact that the whole cast could tone it down a bit because The Alchemist Theatre is very small, all the actors were trying their best to convey the message and reveal their characters; maybe trying too hard. It seemed labored at times.

The standouts in the cast include both Timothy Rebers as Cordelius and his cohort Zach Thomas Woods as Julian.  Both provided many of the laughs, especially Woods, who overacts sometimes, but is quite talented.

Among the women, Jennifer A. Larsen as Dame Grendela (who overacts at times), Brittany Curran as Squire Pinne and LeAnn Vance as Squire Aquiline shone in their roles.  Curran was the most charming of the women in a group that pretty much lacked charm. She also provided some melodious moments.

The costumes by Katlyn Rogers were interesting, and the swordplay well-directed by Christopher Elst.

A bit more history on how this female society came to be and what their goals were would have been helpful as background. They were definitely not anti-men, considering their response to Cordelius’ presence. 

I liked the surprise ending when the men are forced to make a decision as to their future. I wouldn’t strongly recommend this production, but go see it for yourself. Maybe you’ll love it.

“The Wayward Women”

The play runs through July 22 at the Alchemist Theatre, 2569 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., Milwaukee. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.