Photo courtesy Classical Actor Ensemble
On what was likely the shittiest April evening in many decades in the Twin Cities, a hearty crowd gathered at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage Thursday evening for a funny and bawdy A Chaste Maid in Cheapside, courtesy of the resurgent Classical Actor Ensemble.
Thomas Middleton's proto sex farce centers on a familiar plot, as we have star-crossed lovers attempting to get together against the wishes of society. Unlike Romeo and Juliet (which is being presented in rep with Chaste Maid), this play never turns tragic.
The "maid" in question is Moll (Nissa Nordland), the daughter of the Yellowhammers and the betrothed of philandering Sir Walter Whorehound (Zachary Morgan). True to his name, the knight already has multiple mistresses, including Mrs. Allwit. As it turns out, Mr. Allwit doesn't mind this arrangement at all, as Sir Walter pays all of the household expenses.
The other key character is lovelorn Touchwood the younger (Nate Cheeseman), who desperately wants to be with Moll, even if the two have to steal away in the night (and eventually fake their own deaths) to make their union official.
Sex and love are never far from the surface here, from the extremely fertile Touchwood the elder (Dan Jocek) to the halting courtship between Whorehound's mistress (known only as the Welsh Woman, played by McKenna Kelly-Eiding) and inept scholar Tim (Neal Beckman).
All of this gives the cast plenty of fodder for comedy. Director Joseph Papke builds a broad and physical production that gives the company plenty of space to mine, be it the absolutely twittish Tim, the pleased cuckold Allwit, or the so-in-love-you-want-to-slap-him Touchwood the younger. Sometimes the dialogue gets a bit mealy-mouthed and a bit difficult to understand, but the broad and ribald action is always clear.
In honor of the show's 17th-century roots, or maybe just to reflect the British theater's love for dressing up, there are plenty of men playing women here. One scene at the bedside of Mrs. Allwit and her newborn child ends up sounding like a Monty Python pepperpot convention.
As with past productions, modern music is merged with the play, which opens up the show even more. This can range from the Beatles' "She's Leaving Home" to a bouncy, country-fied version of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun."
IF YOU GO:
A Chaste Maid in Cheapside
Through April 12
Minneapolis Theatre Garage
711 W. Franklin Ave.
For tickets and more information, call 651.321.4024 or visit online.