By: Sam Fatula | A&E Editor
Although you may be vaguely familiar with Duquesne’s theater arts troupe, The Red Masquers remain an underappreciated talent within the University’s student body.
Every semester, the Red Masquers put on productions that require months to construct settings, memorize and eventually perform live in front of hundreds of people at the Peter Mills Auditorium in Rockwell Hall. And while theater arts may not be at the top of every Duquesne student’s to-do list on the weekend, their latest comedic production, A Chaste Maid in Cheapside, will have first-time viewers coming back for more.
Before entering the various plots that occupy A Chaste Maid in Cheapside, it’s imperative to have a brief historical knowledge of the time period the Red Masquers reenact. Written by English playwright Thomas Middleton in 1613, the script clearly has some inconsistencies with current societal diction, slang and word choice.
You can imagine how difficult it is for an audience to initially transition from common tongue to ‘olde English,’ and it showed by a partial lack of laughter throughout the first 20 minutes or so. This is not from lack of talent from the cast though, as phrasings were eventually easier to understand in conjunction with the hilarious mannerisms from the cast, which really brought specific characters to life. Besides, it’s hard not to chuckle when the main antagonist goes by the name of Sir Walter Whorehound.
As for the various plots of A Chaste Maid in Cheapside, it’s unlike many other productions; a surprising and refreshing factor given its aged script. In some ways, the play pokes fun at William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, throwing in various monkey wrenches to the traditional couple whose love is forbidden, plus the occasional dig at stereotypical aristocracy.
The production examines the struggle of the “chaste maid” Moll Yellowhammer, played by McCall Behringer, whose parents force her into marrying the “chivalrous” knight Sir Walter Whorehound, though she loves another man by the name of Touchwood Jr. (Evan Saunders). Unbeknownst to the Yellowhammer family, Sir Whorehound, played by Connor Graca is not the pious man they believe him to be. In fact, he houses various mistresses and children that are kept in the dark until the climax of the production.
Witnessing Sir Whorehound trying to manage his skeletons brings out the best in other characters, especially John Alwitt, played by Nathaniel Yost. To be frank, Yost steals the show. His eccentric demeanor alone had the auditorium holding their sides, and had some of the better punchlines and exchanges between fellow castmates.
Sir Oliver (George Ramey) and Lady Kix (Laura Miller Donaldson) follow the trend of a rich family hilariously fumbling and crying over their selfish ways. Although their issue of being unable to conceive a child is quite a serious issue, the manner in which they travel and act through their endeavor makes for some of the funniest sequences in the entire production.
The rest of A Chaste Maid in Cheapside provides many other belly-aching moments, achieved through inviting special guests like Dr. Jay Keenan to return to the theater department as Mr. Yellowhammer. The rest of the cast each have their own memorable areas and are worth an honorable mention as well, and overall this production is a great way to introduce anyone into The Red Masquers if they’re unfamiliar.
The play continues on this Thursday to Saturday starting at 8 p.m., so don’t miss a chance to see a quality production that doesn’t require leaving campus.
(Follow @Sam_Fatula on Twitter for daily music & arts news)