Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Told by five actors, who play various parts in the story, the plot follows young academia Prudencia Hart who has come to the small town of Kelso, on the Scottish Borders, to attend a conference. It is a snowy, cold, wintry night and when she finds her car snowed in she sets off to find a place to stay for the night. Little does she know what is waiting for her at the very hellish bed and breakfast that she's booked for the evening. To say much more about the plot would ruin the fun of experiencing Prudencia's journey.
Delivered almost completely in rhyming couplets, with some of the rhyming words especially hilarious, the play is fun and energetic, though it does have some downright spooky moments, particularly at the end of the first act. The stage of the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts has been converted into a makeshift Scottish pub, and the audience sits at large tables, with the actors bringing the storytelling and live music throughout the crowd as the tale unfolds.
The cast of five are exceptional. Jessica Hardwick is Prudencia and she is luminous as the smart, social outcast who finds herself in a very strange situation. As her academic rival, the arrogant Colin, Paul McCole is downright cheeky and pompous, though he shows his true colors, and love for Pru, in his very funny scene toward the end of the show. As the devilish bed and breakfast proprietor, David McKay is full of fire and energy, but also with a hint of sadness. Annie Grace and Alasdair Macrae round out the quintet, with Grace's strong, soaring vocals especially impressive on many of the songs throughout the show and Macrae's joyful spirit and skilled musical accompaniment, and original musical compositions, adding depth to the story of Prudencia.
Wils Wilson has not only directed a gifted cast, but with minimal props and virtually no set, manages to create the settings of the piece exceptionally. The use of flashlights and candles in the final act one scene is stunningly beautiful in its simplicity. David Greig's script is impressive, especially in his ability to use rhyming couplets to tell Pru's story. However, there are a few moments when it gets bogged down just a bit or where the shift in tone, from outright comedy to intense drama, is a little jarring. But sit back and simply let the story of Prudencia's dance with the devil unfold all around you and you will most likely find yourself very happy you took the journey.
The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart runs through Sunday, April 24th, 2016, at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Information for upcoming concerts and shows at the SCPA can be found at http://www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org. Information on the remaining performances of the tour of this show, and future productions of The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart can be found at www.nationaltheatrescotland.com
Conceived by David Grieg and Wils Wilson