by Amy Lee Pearsall · September 23, 2013
Like many lovers of theatre, the first play I ever read was in verse: Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. I can’t say that I understood all of it on my first — or even my third — reading, but I can say that I fell in love with the language and its rhythms. Fast forward to 2012: Director John Hurley emailed me out of the blue as I was getting ready to leave the country for a couple of weeks, and asked if I could come in for a quick table read of Johnna Adams’ new play, Lickspittles, Buttonholers, and Damned Pernicious Go-Betweens. I almost declined; I still had to pack. But I sat down to read it, and I couldn’t say no.
As in many of Shakespeare’s plays, there are star-crossed lovers at the center of Lickspittles. There is also verse, but rather than stick to pentameter, Adams has created a world that allows the characters to speak in rhyming couplets, haikus, sonnets, free verse, and even sestinas. They are aware of their language, and of the power that it wields. It is a comedy — at times, a broad comedy — that takes place during the Napoleonic Wars, but there are still moments of communion that Adams has quietly woven into the fabric of this work, reminding us that no one is left untouched by battle, even if we can’t necessarily see the scars.
In Boomerang Theatre Company’s premiere production of Lickspittles, currently showing at Theatrelab through October 6, I play two characters: the woebegone Sestine, love interest to the Danish Prince Frederick, and the French Empress Josephine. It is a delight for me as a performer, because I get to go from one to the other in just a couple of pages’ worth of text. I can’t say enough about what a joy it has been to work with this cast, and I think Hurley has a fantastic vision for this piece. Lickspittles could easily be done with multiple costume changes and lavish sets, but we’re putting it up on a bare stage with little more than wooden swords and a toy boat. I think the script really shines as a result – the story is the focus. And what a fun story it is.