Who knew Shakespeare had so many wives? Dorothy Velasco’s new play Ladies Shakespeare Club, which opened Friday, Feb. 17, at Very Little Theatre, dramatizes love for Shakespeare among the six main characters. Tears were shed and laughter filled the room.
The old-timey furniture on set presented in VLT’s Stage Left suggests a more intimate performance in this production directed by Karen Scheeland. In the smaller space, the play is grounded. This provides a more personal experience. I was right there close enough to high-five the ghost of Shakespeare.
Each character has a signature color, worn the whole performance. Dark navy flatters Leah (Sarah De Leon), while turquoise compliments Connie (Toni Mucker). Ardith (Christina Dancer) could be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with all the vibrant green she wears. Mac (Jen Ferro) shows up in a fiery red contrasting Harmony’s (Zepha Wright) violet. Last, but not least, did someone tell Grace (Denise Lacroix) that black is the new orange? With each new scene, the characters don slightly different outfits that coincide with the set year.
Not only do their outfits change but the set slightly alters in between scenes. During the transition to get the set ready, a poster is held up and placed on a wall with the time change.
The Shakespeare club bonds the women, and in times of distress, they support one another. Even the ghost of Shakespeare comforts the group. When scenes got a little heavy, the audience would sigh in empathy. Through the dramatics, the characters put on quite an entertaining show.
Social issues are addressed throughout the play. The characters react to signs of the time in controversial ways. Religion plays a role when accepting new members into the club. Connie’s Christian beliefs stand in the way of welcoming Leah because she is Jewish and Mrs. Thompson (Aimée Okotie-Oyekan) because she is a person of color.
As time goes on, women’s rights and voting become an issue. Towards the end of the play, the audience chuckled when the women mention that they will see men as equals and encourage them to join in, but women will remain the majority. The group creates discourse regarding racism, war, politics, sexism, religion, LGBTQ+ and more.
It’s brave to address these crucial topics in this context, but Velasco does a great job highlighting them in a light-hearted and enjoyable play.
Ladies Shakespeare Club runs through Feb. 26 at Very Little Theatre. Tickets are $15 at TheVLT.com.