Review: Women Beware Women (and Everyone Else) in Blue In The Right Way’s Debut Production

Chicago's newest theater, Blue In The Right Way, is staging its inaugural production, Women Beware Women, a half-modernized, half-classical mashup of Thomas Middleton’s original work of the same name, written in 1621. The play was adapted by Kevin V. Smith (who directed) and Daiva Bhandari (who plays the cunning widow Livia). Smith and Bhandari founded Blue in the Right Way in 2019. Visual art is a means for theatrical storytelling in this staging, as black and white video, words, and moving art are projected around the stage. Though this mixed-media style could overwhelm a casual theatergoer, the avant-garde approach was engrossing. It also helped the audience move between the material's historical context and representations of today's sociopolitical landscape.

The early modern work Women Beware Women was written at a time when Shakespeare was still writing, so it recalls elements of the bard's style and influences. However, the play lacks Shakespeare's essential structural fluency, which might explain why there are fewer adaptations and classical stagings of Middleton's than Shakespeare’s body of work. This production approaches the Jacobean era and its value system from a modern perspective, staging two trans-femme characters in French maid-style costumes as the play's narrators: the super-talented Kidany Camilo (Solange) and Bree Perry (Clara).

Bree Perry (Clara) and Kidany Camilo (Solange). Photo by Christopher Semel.

Camilo and Perry are not actual purveyors of anything happening in the play's central plot—rather, they describe our culture's continued legacy of gendered violence and stereotyping. These narrators turn toward the audience as they grapple with the long history of cruelty toward women and members of the queer and trans communities. Camilo and Perry's performances are a production highlight: they are able to engage lightheartedly with questions of identity, as well as passionately recount tragic news and deeply personal stories, told both in English and Spanish with the help of projected subtitles.

Overall, there is much to recommend this production: its effort at Spanish subtitling for an entire classical work (translations by Sonia Perelló), trans women at the front and center of its storytelling, committed performances from a talented ensemble cast, and a comprehensive understanding of history's gendered tragedies up through 2024. However, with everything else that happens on stage, it's hard to celebrate the production's wins.

The cast of Women Beware Women. Photo by Christopher Semel.

Throughout Women Beware Women, the audience is inundated with screeching, tea kettle-style audio, graphic on-stage depictions of sexual violence, and little to no warning of the play's plethora of triggers for sensory-sensitive folks. The impossibly long first act (two solid hours) does little to set up characters the audience can invest in or hold out hope for, and its tragedies seem gratuitous and insurmountable by the time the show breaks for intermission. Of course, many of the storytelling issues could be attributed to the original source material. But Smith and Bhandari's lengthy additions to the script throw the play off-balance entirely. Heading back into the theater after intermission is only recommended for those who are ready to continue a sensorally and emotionally taxing experience, compounded by nudity, more violence, and death. In summary, it's okay if you can't go back for a second act: don’t be a hero.

Women Beware Women by Blue in the Right Way continues through May 12 at the Edge Theater, 5451 N. Broadway. The play is co-produced with Tuta Theatre. Running time, including the intermission, is 2 hours and 45 minutes. Tickets are $20-$40 and are now on sale at BlueInTheRightWay.com

For more information on this and other plays, see theatreinchicago.com.

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Row Light

Row Light (she/they) is a Chicago-based culture writer and editor. You can find their work at row-light.com.