What do you get when you take two down-on-their-luck Shakespearean actors, throw in a stranger's inheritance and add in disguises? You get 's production of "Leading Ladies," Ken Ludwig's popular farce.
In the play, two actors are so down and out that they're performing "Scenes from Shakespeare" on the Moose Lodge circuit. When they read about a rich old lady who is about to die and leave her fortune to her long-lost nephews, a plan is hatched.
Deciding to impersonate the nephews to collect the inheritance, they board a train, only to discover that it's not the old lady's nephews who will collect the loot, but her nieces.
Ever resourceful, the actors don women's clothing from their costume case and go ahead with their scheme. Hilarity ensues.
As with all farce, there's entertaining, if improbable, situations, extravagant in their detail. There's disguises and mistaken identity, quick entrances and exits, and the verbal humor comes as quick as the lightning-fast costume changes.
Nicole Voss, director and drama teacher in the Parkway District for 18 years, understands both the pleasure and challenges of staging a farce.
"It's a lot of fun. Doing a farce always keeps you on your toes. The pacing has to be tight and the characters strong. You can't take the humor for granted," Voss said.
Voss puts a lot of thought into choosing which productions will be produced in a given year.
"I look at the talent...what's the talent base? This year I had a good base of males. Specifically, comedic males, " she said. "I like to expose the kids to as much opportunity as I can."
Senior Michael Price has been active in theater through high school, both in main stage and one-act productions, but "Leading Ladies" has one distinction for him.
"It's the first time I got the—quote, unquote—lead. It's been fun," Price, who plays Leo, said.
Freshman Aidan McCarter, who plays the other male lead, Jack, spoke about his experience with the play.
"So many quick changes," McCarter said, shaking his head. "I love that I got in the play as a freshman. I didn't expect it...it's pretty awesome."
In "Leading Ladies," both actors are faced with a particular challenge that many actors don't face in an entire career.
"Putting on women's clothing as fast as I have to is about as much fun as I thought it would be," Price said.
"I just didn't know I was going to be kissing dudes," McCarter added.
The set is nuanced and elaborate, with a staircase, an upper-level balcony, and french doors that open onto a garden. Scenic Designer Julia Levine is quick to share the credit.
"I just had my input. It was a collaboration," Levine said.
Farce is also known for being highly tolerant of transgressive behavior, which could present a problem for a high school production.
McCarter said, "We had to cut out some of the more risque parts 'cause..."
"'Cause we're in high school," Price said, finishing the sentence for his co-star.
and runs through Saturday at Parkway Central's Theatre, 369 North Woods Mill Road.
"Leading Ladies" Cast List
Meg: Katie Strutz
Leo: Michael Price
Jack: Aidan McCarter
Audrey: Emma Rechenberg
Duncan: David Schneider
Florence: Amanda Walker
Doc: Tyler Adelstein
Butch: Jacob Rosenstock
Moose Lodge Members: