'FROM WOMEN'S EYES': A Theatre Review by Cristine Ngo
From Women’s Eyes is a delightful compilation of various monologues and conversations between the ladies of Shakespeare’s plays that showcases the array and complexity of human emotion women feel. Co-directors Jennifer Hale and Kaitlyn Rietdyk’s set of black walls and ordinary mismatched objects create an old, serene attic where these girls gather and have fun sifting through old memories and reenacting the Shakespeare scenes that resonate with them. Combined with Sid Wilson’s haunting lighting techniques, the set constantly transforms from dark prison to regal throne room to intimate girl’s space.
While some familiarity with Shakespeare’s plays help enhance enjoyment of the play, the actresses are strong enough with their characterizations to deliver the emotional impact of their lines. Aimee Adler’s hilarious adaptations of Katharine, Beatrice and Regan, for example, give these characters modern, relatable and charming personalities that can be found in a modern comedy. The fight scene from A Midnight Summer Night’s Dream between Kerry Hishon’s Hermia and Kathryn Mitchell’s Helena is a laugh-out-loud cat-fight with well-timed choreography, by Kerry Hishon, and facial expressions.
Hale and Rietdyk’s compilation allows for some unique effects to take place, particularly when Dinah Watts’ chilling rendition of Lady Macbeth’s famous “Out, damned spot!” scene is played at the same time with Jennifer Hale’s rendition of Constance’s “Thou Art Not Holy To Belie Me So…” Both actress’ performance double so well against each other that it is easy to believe Shakespeare intended for those scenes to be played off of each other. Add in the lighting imitating antique window frames by Sid Wilson and the scene becomes more poignant!
The entire cast has strong acting—from April Chappell’s range of quietly amusing and powerfully dignified women to Norah Cuzzocrea’s sarcastic Helena and proud Hermione to Nicole Reid’s sweet and devastated Juliet—each actress commands the stage with her words alone. Even when the actresses are not immediately playing a role, they settle in the background, functioning as another audience and a dynamic part of the set. They shout commentary and fool around, creating an intimate atmosphere of a just-girls-night that the audience enjoys.
Though the transitions between each Shakespearean monologue can be confusing and a person unfamiliar with Shakespeare may feel lost when watching the play, the central theme of From Women’s Eyes—the relationships between women—shines in each actress’s performance as well as the playful background scenes when the actresses are ‘offstage’ amongst the attic furniture, watching the performance with the main audience. It is as if the main audience is among friends, invited to sit in on the joke. Eventually the scenes flow together in such a beautiful way that it is no surprise when certain scenes begin to overlap each other or when the cast joins in singing with Deborah Mitchell’s Gertrude-turned-Ophelia. The flow and overlay of scenes and lines showcases how the emotions of Shakespeare’s women carry over to women of today and how they can still be relevant to us as well. From Women’s Eyes is a fun way for fans to engage with Shakespeare through a different lens.