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Review: JANE ANGER at New Ohio Theatre Gets Even and Gets Laughs with a Shakespearean Twist

Extended through March 26th

Review: JANE ANGER at New Ohio Theatre Gets Even and Gets Laughs with a Shakespearean Twist
Talene Monahon and Michael Urie

Mixing history, mystery, sword play and word play, JANE ANGER takes a jab at right-sizing Shakespeare and does so with hilarious results. Billed as a "Jacobean feminist revenge Comedy," the one-act play written by Talene Monahon provides ample opportunity for us to hate on the egotistical bard while still swooning for the versatile actor who plays him (Michael Urie).

As the play begins, the titular Jane Anger (Amelia Workman) is the first face we see...eventually. She arrives from the aisle wearing a helmet that looks like a cross between a crow and a Spy vs. Spy character. Actually, it's a creepily authentic representation of an Elizabethan medical hood, circa London 1066. Elizabethan doctors would fill them with flower petals and scented oil; the hoods were intended to keep doctors safe from patients during the Plague.

Review: JANE ANGER at New Ohio Theatre Gets Even and Gets Laughs with a Shakespearean Twist
Amelia Workman

A Jane-of-all-trades sensual, mystical and medical, Workman narrates parts of the show and serves as an informant to fill in gaps: "I am a Cunning Woman. I've been cunning going on fourteen months now." She has served as a most-helpful muse to Shakespeare, and he misses her touch.

Leave it to the dippy and devoted Francis (Ryan Spahn), who has come aboard as Shakespeare's unpaid assistant, to ask the question on all our minds: "What is a Cunning Woman? Is that like a physician? Or a Barber-Surgeon?"

WILL: "Yes Frankie, it's similar but the differences are the person has breasts and makes less money."

Although Francis can't steal the show (Will would never allow that to happen), he does land one laugh after another with both his physical comedy (an Elizabethan version of social distancing measured in trotting ponies) and his obsession with youthfulness:

FRANCIS: "You are a strapping forty-two, sir."

WILL: "Francis, the average life expectancy in Elizabethan England IS FORTY-TWO. Have. Perspective! Thank you for the 'strapping' though. I do have a cool earring. And I perform a strenuous Galliard dance in my room daily to stay slim."

Review: JANE ANGER at New Ohio Theatre Gets Even and Gets Laughs with a Shakespearean Twist
Micheal Urie and Ryan Spahn

Despite his talent, bravado and cool earring, Shakespeare is blocked - creatively and sexually. Eager to finish King Lear, he needs release and is desperate to find it. Is Jane Anger the answer? They do have a history...

Long into what feels like a buddy comedy, Anne Hathaway (Talene Monahon) finally enters. Seven years absent, she has arrived in London with a lot to say: "Stratford is so boring! It's been seven years since you visited there. Did you get any of my letters? I feel like you didn't get them. I didn't get any of yours either. I sent you so many. For seven years!! Did you know there's an X on your door? That's really sad. I felt sad when I saw that. Because of the stigma. Your sorrow is also my sorrow. I love you. You're my husband. I haven't been touched in seven years except for this one time when a spider bit me. Let's make out."

Like a monologue with no room for response from even the verbose Bard himself, Monahon's staccato delivery echoes her play's long-form title: "The Lamentable Comedie of JANE ANGER, that Cunning Woman, and also of Willy Shakefpeare and his Peasant Companion, Francis, Yes and Also of Anne Hathaway (also a Woman) Who Tried Very Hard."

It's apparent that Anne is a force to be reckoned with as she conspires with Jane Anger to secure authorship for a feminist treatise that would otherwise go unpublished. It just needs a signature of a Shakespeare. Any Shakespeare will do.

Throughout JANE ANGER, misogyny fuels and foreshadows much of the 5-scene plot as it winds its way toward Will's eventual comeuppance. Serious themes are buoyed along the way by consistent character-driven comedy, fourth-wall breaking, and period details such as Plague screechers heard outside and chamber pots filling. Playwright Talene Monahon roots us in a spoofy squall and stench of Shakespeare's 1066, and it's a horribly wonderful place to be.

Directed by Jess Chayes with fight choreography by Sean Michael Chin. Patrons and groundlings take heed: mask up (no hoods required).

JANE ANGER has been extended through March 26th. Purchase tickets HERE.

PHOTOS: Valerie Terranova

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