iambe theatre’s ‘Into the Breeches’ Contains One of the Funniest Scenes to Ever Appear on Stage

iambe theatre ensemble has a noble mission, which includes an emphasis on putting a focus on underrepresented factions of the artistic community – most notably women.

When you are searching for the right vehicle to highlight specific talent or a specific message, it can be hit or miss in finding just the right selection.

Running through June 11, iambe theatre is presenting Into the Breeches! By George Brant, under the direction of Lisa Dawn. And it is a production that features an extremely talented cast.

It’s understandable why iambe theatre would consider Into the Breeches! as a follow up to its very successful productions of Gidion’s Knot and The Roommate (2022 Heartstrings Award Winner). The play features a predominately female cast of characters as well as some other underrepresented elements.

To review Into the Breeches is a tough assignment, though. The script has some gloriously funny moments, as well as some poignant moments and some well-crafted monologues. However, it also contains some sections that come across rather offensive.

I don’t think it was necessarily intentional that the playwright ends up alienating some in the audience with his writing, but without rewrites any company not as talented as iambe theatre ensemble might have a problem pulling off Into the Breeches as an entirely enjoyable production.

But, the cast of iambe theatre’s production of Into the Breeches certainly does overcome the problems in the script and gives us a production filled with laughs and tempered by thought-provoking moments. That is a testament to the talents of the wonderful actors and actresses baring their souls on stage for the enjoyment of those of us lucky enough to be in the audience.


The play is set in 1942, during World War II. As such, most able-bodied men are off in Europe battling the Nazi regime. Back home in Chicago, a group of female theatrical talents decides that instead of letting the Oberon Playhouse stay dark until the male theatrical talent return from war, they should stage the company’s planned Shakespearean opus with an all-female cast.

The play is actually based on the real events that occurred at the Cleveland Play House during the war. The playwright was kind enough to allow iambe theatre ensemble to change to location to Chicago in order to give an extra tickle to the funny bones of local audiences.

Maggie Dalton has been the assistant director at Oberon for over a decade. Taking over the directing reigns for a four-hour production combining Shakespeare’s Richard III, Henry IV (parts I and II) and Henry V, Maggie gets Celeste Fielding, the city’s biggest female diva, to sign on to head the cast. She also gets the reluctant financial backing of the theater’s president Ellsworth Snow through some trickery that shows how easy it is for a smart woman to outthink even the most intelligent businessman.

Maggie is well played by Kelli Walker. She is very believable as a true leader who has been hidden in the shadows of men for far too long. She knows she can make this a success if she is just given the chance. And when she isn’t just given the chance, she fights until she finally gets approval.

Resident leading lady Celeste Fielding is brought to life by the always impressive Shannon Mayhall. The challenge of having a character that is supposed to be an incredibly performer, is finding actor that actually is that good. Mayhall has that level of unmatched talent and puts it on full display with her masterful rendition of the character.


Mayhall also has great fun playing up Celeste’s ego – including the fact that despite being past 40, Celeste still insists on playing Juliet in all Oberon productions of Romeo & Juliet.

The highlight of the show is Doreen Dawson as Winifred Snow, wife of Oberon board president Ellsworth Snow. Winifred is about as smart as a box of rocks, and although she loves the theatre her talent level as an actress could also be compared to a box of rocks.

Thanks to Maggie’s quick thinking, though, Winifred is promised a sizeable role in the Shakespearean epic of women playing male roles. This means that Ellsworth can’t close down the production no matter how much he wants to.

Dawson had me in stitches from her first moment of dialogue and kept me laughing every time she set foot on stage for the rest of the evening. I have only ever seen Dawson in dramatic roles, it’s wonderful to learn that her comedy skills are even more incredible.

Dawson, Mayhall, and Walker are not the only performers that audiences will enjoy. While the script is inconsistent, it does have glorious moments for each of the cast members to shine in fine form.

Amber Cartwright plays costumer Ida Green. As a woman of color in 1947, Green has been relegated to the sidelines for the entirety of her time with Oberon. Unbeknownst to the men who have been running the theatre, Green is an amazing Shakespearean actress.  Under Maggie’s direction, Green will finally have the chance for her friends and neighbors to see what the Oberon has been hiding all these years.


Cartwright is extremely powerful in the role. She is also very believable – which can often be difficult in comedy.

Amber Fisher plays Grace Richards, a mother braving an uncomfortable living situation for the sake of her child, but seeking an outlet of some kind to get out of the house. Without any acting training, Grace wows Maggie with her natural talent and lands herself a leading role. She just has to figure out a way not to fall apart when she forgets a line.

Taylor McWilliams-Woods is a fountain of excited energy as June Bennett, a bicycle-riding student with an addiction to charities and war effort programs who also loves the stage. She is just a joy to watch.

Rounding out the cast are two male actors – Ken Kaden as powerful businessman Ellsworth Snow and Garrett Ard as outcast Stuart Lasker.

Kaden has all the qualities of some of the world’s favorite character actors like Jason Alexander, Danny DeVito, Jeremy Piven and John Larroquette. He has big expressions without being ludicrous. He is a delight and would fit right in on a television sitcom.

Ard provides a very brave portrayal of a young man who desperately wanted to serve his country but was repeatedly denied acceptance into the military. He’s given all sorts of reasons as to why he can’t serve – for instance his height or his eyesight – but the real reason is that he is a homosexual.

It is now 2023 and we still have people who think it’s appropriate to condemn those who are different. To face the kind of stigma being different in 1947 had to be soul crushing and Ard finds that truth in his characterization of Oberon stage manager Stuart Lasker.

Into the Breeches has some really great moments. In fact, it has a scene in which the women train themselves to walk like men that is without exaggeration one of the funniest things I have ever witnessed in my life.

I may go to hell for admitting this, but I happen to think Team America: World Police is one of the funniest movies of all time. It has a scene in which marionettes have sex. That scene has long stood as the pinnacle of comedy for me- the scene I am referencing in iambe theatre’s Into the Breeches is every bit as funny.

But, as I said, it is a hard show to review because despite having some beautiful roses, there are also some less than beautiful things littering the garden.


Brant appears to be trying to make positive statements of support and equality for women, people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community – all good things. However just tackling important issues doesn’t guarantee the execution is going to be impressive. Just wanting to write something worthy of a noble peace prize doesn’t mean the words warrant such honors.

As such, it would be hard to recommend any and all productions of Into the Breeches. However, the talented ensemble at iambe theatre guided by the leadership of director Dawn and producers Liz Recht Johnson, Mayhall, and Dawson, have created a production that audiences will enjoy.

Dawn’s blocking and set concept are excellent. Fight choreography by Deb Swinford makes excellent use of the space and accentuates the skills of the actresses involved. It is an impressive interlude that adds excitement to the show.

Also, important to acknowledge are stage manager Maureen Corcoran, lighting designer Jim Van De Velde, and a running crew that includes Katie Medic, Julie Partyka, and Diane Wawrzyniak. Costumes are provided by Tish Lyons, Kathy Bruhnke, and the College of DuPage Department of Theatre. Sound design is by Dawn. Technical support is provided by Amelia Gardner and Christopher Lindquist.

Understudies include Tricia Miller Hewson, William Smith, Matt Hellyer, and Kiara Wolfe.

Iambe theatre’s Into the Breeches plays Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM and Sundays at 2 PM through June 11 at Marquee Youth Stage, 619 W. Main Street (Route 64) in beautiful downtown St. Charles, IL. For ticket information visit: tinyurl.com/iambe-breeches

Peace. Love. Trust.

Rikki Lee Travolta

For more reviews visit: Theatre in Chicago – your source for What’s on Stage in the Chicago Area


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