Chicago Theatre Review
The Scullery Maid – Idle Muse
Can a good monarch ever be a good man? Does the price of greatness always have to payed in the blood? One dark and stormy night in Nottingham castle, circa 1360 C.E., Miriam (Lydia Hiller), cook, scullery maid, and sole Jew on the premises, steels herself to find out the answers to these question. Raised, since the grisly death of her father, by chief chef Bess (Anne Marie Lewis) and the french steward Henri Pascal (George Ellison), Miriam has harbored bloody designs towards her lord and sovereign Edward III (Dave Skvarla) which she intends to bring to fruition tonight.
Despite such a thrilling premise, and the authors turn for bitter humor, The Scullery Maid remains underbaked. It’s slow as molasseses for one thing, pauses puddling into silences, and the majority of the accents stretched to become unintelligible. For another, Miriam is too little a woman and too much a device, the script forcing her to act unnaturally as the plot requires. Hiller has some success in carrying off her character’s plucky-resistance-member-cavalierly-looking-at-her-last-night-alive incarnation but in rage or suffering she becomes unmoored (hardly her fault, as there’s nothing to moor to.) The pace and the plot pick up significantly when Miriam meets Edward himself. Cunning, luxurious, a tiger deciding whether to cuddle or dismember, the King is a thrillingly off-putting individual, the best and absolute worst excesses of an absolute monarch. Skvarla plays him with a warm wit and uncaring contempt: King Falstaff with a thirst for blood rather than beer.
The play does posses a strong dose of humor, with Edward and Dulcie (Leslie Hull), a lass of negotiable affection turned sub-scullery maid, being the chief dispensers. But its flashing wit doesn’t quite harmonize or balance out the savage violence that bursts out from time to time. But while the story may tittle and terrify, and the script offer powerful speeches about the nature of hate and what it drives us to do, The Scullery Maid has too little flesh over it’s bones to truly compel. Too many balls out of left field, too many knives in the dark, (one too many “Little Jew” comments). It’s a story that shows great promise of being a beguiling drama but, just like its heroine, it blows its chance too soon.
Sadly, Not Recommended by Ben Kemper
The Edge Theater 5451 N. Broadway, (near the Bryn Mar Red Line)
Run time: Two Hours with intermission.
For tickets contact idlemuse.org or 773-340-9438
For more information on this and other productions visit www.Theaterinchicago.org