4th Wall Theatre Co. Presents the Comedy Shakespeare in Vegas

The picture of a deeply unhappy lead actress.
The picture of a deeply unhappy lead actress. Photo by Gabriella Nissen

It all began when she and some others were hired to write a 10-minute play by The Drilling Company in New York. They were all given one word to build the play around: theft.

Playwright Suzanne Bradbeer (The God Game) started by thinking of all forms of theft. "What about an actor who's in a smaller role stealing a scene from an actor who has the lead?" Next she thought of Anthony and Cleopatra, an iconic classic. "What if one of the handmaids steals the death scene by having a bigger death?"

The result —- once expanded from ten minutes to a full, two-act play — is Shakespeare in Vegas because where else would be more ridiculous to do Shakespeare? 4th Wall Theatre Company is mounting the production with Jennifer Dean directing and Artistic Director Kim Tobin-Lehl in the role of the actor playing Cleopatra.

Margo has become hardened through years of disappointment and now to play the roles she covets, she has to go to Las Vegas working for promoter Tony who happens to be a wise guy. Tony loved his grandmother who loved Shakespeare and he's trying to honor her by bringing the Bard to Sin City.

"This actress is a classically trained actress who hasn't had the career she wanted and she's mad about it. She finally gets the roles of her dreams: Cleopatra, Lady Macbeth and the nurse in Romeo and Juliet. The season is catered around her. And she's good. But she has to go to Las Vegas," Bradbeer says.

The play opens with all three in the dressing room on opening night. "That has just happened and all three are in the post bomb blast of that having happened, except that the person who did it doesn't even realize that she did it. She has a very logical explanation  why she should have a bigger death. She dies after Cleopatra, she therefore is the messenger for how great this person was, she reflects the glory of Cleopatra and that's why she should be as Cleopatra says 'flinging herself around the palace.' in an agony of grief."

Tobin-Lehl says while this play is set in the theater world, it really applies to anyone who arrives at a certain point in his or her life and finds the landing point is not where he or she thought it would be. "She's questioning whether her life has any worth. That's universal."

The play was done in 4th Walls's reading series last year, Tobin-Lehl says, "and people just laughed hysterically. they were just rolling." 

"As her career didn't turn out the way she wanted it to she also became unkind, so she lost that spirit of we're in this together." Bradbeer says. "So the question is can you find that again and can you find your passion again and have it be funny because otherwise it's just so damn dreary."

"She has to settle for working with people who don't understand craft and the kind of work ethic that she's put into what she does is just beyond her ability to process," Tobin-Lehl says. "She's not generous when she arrives and she has to go back to being generous again. She thinks she's entitled to not have to be generous any more."

"They bring her something she didn't expect," Bradbeer says.

Performances are scheduled for May 18 through June 9 at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays at Spring Street Studios, 1824 Spring Street. For information call 832-786-1849 or visit $17-$53. Pay what you can on Monday June 4.

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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
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