BWW Reviews: THE STRANGE UNDOING OF PRUDENCIA HART at the Shakespeare Theatre Center
First, do not attempt to see the current Shakespeare Theatre Company production at their homes at the Landsburgh Theatre or at Sidney Harman Hall. Instead, head to Dupont Circle to the Bier Baron Tavern (formerly the Brickskellar), 1523 22nd Street, NW (Bierbarondc.com) .
And once again, the STC has invited The National Theatre of Scotland to entertain locals. The first hit the STC brought to DC was the magnificent BLACK WATCH which was so successful, the show recently ended a return engagement.
No one has ever been to The National Theatre of Scotland theater (launched in 2006) because they have no stage of their own. This troupe travels all over Scotland and the world. They assert that "All of Scotland is our stage, and from here we perform to the world. We are a theatre of the imagination: a Theatre Without Walls..." They perform in various buildings in Scotland, and in site-specific locations, airports, community halls, drill halls, and forests. (Visit www.nationalstheatrescotland.com).
Now don't expect to see anything close to the intense play BLACK WATCH. PRUDENCIA HART was after all a huge hit in 2011 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which includes eclectic works of art, dance, theater, and music. And yes, I would consider PRUD...eclectic.
The play reminded me a little of the wonderful commedia dell'arte musical THE GLORIOUS ONES by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty which concerned a theater troupe during the Italian Renaissance which worked without a script and traveled across Europe.
Here there is a script by David Greig, there is splendid music by Composer/Musical Director/and actor Alasdair Macrae, and a director, Wils Wilson. The cast Andy Clark, Annie Grace, Melody Grove, David McKay, and Macrae are all splendid. Playing the leading role of Prudencia is the remarkable Grove whose performance I will always remember.
Remember, the plays is set in a pub. So beware, the actors move all about and on your tables. A good spot to sit is the little porch to the right of the stage. When I arrived and took my seat and noticed the table next to me hard at work cutting up paper napkins. As it turned out, they were asked to help the cast with the special effect of making snow! And who was my neighbor? None other than the iconic Washington Post theatre critic Peter Marks who was having a ball.
There is also free samples of Benromach Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky available and during intermission, ham and cheese sandwiches on white bread are passed out. I told you this will be a different experience.
Oh...the story. Prudencia is a ballad collector who goes on a quest to find her missing song. According to Dr. Valentina Bold, senior lecturer in Scottish Studies at the University of Glasgow's Crichton Campus in Dumfries, who has a special interest in oral and song traditions in southern Scotland, ballad collectors and ballad singers tend to have one special song they, and nobody else, sing - their ultimate song.
According to Wils Wilson, Prudencia is "on a dangerous journey of self-discovery, and she may have to dance with the devil on the way." And she does.
So...Prudencia one snowy evening, embarks on a trip to a conference on the ancient traditions of ballads to the small town of Kelso at the southern border of Scotland near England wishing she could finish her dissertation examining Hell. At this lovely pub are musicians playing the guitar, banjo, the bondrum, bagpipes, and the table top harmonium. (The band actually will be playing as you arrive to the play).
Well, Prudencia gets snowed in and must choose to stay in the pub and head to a Bed and Breakfast in which she had a reservation. Well...you can imagine it's COOLD, it's DAAARK, outside and finally she meets someone who offers help.
Well...that's all I will say about the plot.