Stephen Stenning has adapted Nobel Prize-winning playwright Dario Fo’s satiric play Il ratto della Francesca, and has now set it in modern day Washington, D.C. giving it a new title –Abducting Diana. The Vagabond Players’ production is filled with witty banter and clever plotlines. Abducting Diana tells the story of a kidnapping gone horribly awry. Three men (Brian Douglas, Tim Craighead, and Frank Vince) are hired to kidnap media mogul Diana (Andrea Bush) in order to collect a hefty ransom for themselves and their mysterious employer. Very early in the play, “Diana” reveals herself to be an actress who was hired to be the real Diana’s double. Once her life is threatened, however, the woman insists that she is the real Diana – or is she? While the audience is trying to solve this mystery, they are also attempting to figure out who hired these kidnappers and whether or not “Diana” will be able to get away.
The play is full of humorous one-liners and clever directorial choices that draw laughs from the crowd. When Diana asks if she is being kidnapped, one of the kidnappers sarcastically replies, “We collect media bosses. Rupert Murdoch’s in the cellar.” Later on, when very distraught, Diana exclaims, “He’s driven me to supermarket scotch!” Director Michael Spellman creatively chooses to play Aretha Franklin’s “Rescue Me” during the set change immediately following Diana’s kidnapping, drawing loud laughs from the audience.The cast displays excellent comic timing, delivering their lines with great flair, all while performing many physical demanding feats such as pretending to be tortured (including an electrocution scene), taking pitfalls onto furniture and grappling with each other.
Andrea Bush is a dramatic powerhouse! She plays the role of the domineering Diana to a tee, and the men onstage were putty in her hands. Her loud, commanding voice makes her believable as a major media superstar, and each time she walks onstage, her powerful stature seems to shout, “I’m in charge here!” Even in the first scene of the play, when Diana seduces a young man (Mike Rosscoe), the audience sees that Bush’s character is used to having the control in every situation, as she leads all of the foreplay and makes sure that her young lover knows exactly what she wants. The kidnappers are incredibly entertaining, but special mention should be made of Brian Douglas (Chief Kidnapper) whose stage presence demands that all eyes in the audience turn to him. Douglas shows his comedic range impeccably during the scene where Diana and the kidnappers stage a mock trial, and Douglas’ character turns from a rough kidnapper to a dapper businessman simply by putting on a different accent, sitting in a different position and pretending to hold a martini glass.
The clever yet simple set is perfect for this show, as it easily transitions from Diana’s apartment to the kidnappers’ bizarre lair. Set Designer Tony Colavito creates the façade of an apartment under renovation by covering a chair, the walls and coffee table with black and pink sheets, but once the scene changes to the kidnappers’ hideout, the sheets are removed to reveal a beat up chair, wooden crates and walls covered in graffiti. The actors’ mainly black, white and earth-toned costumes (arranged by Costumer Diane Jackson) adequately reflect the personality of each character, from Diana’s business attire to the kidnappers’ undercover garments. The only brightly-adorned character is Diana’s mother (Lucy Poirier), whose colorful clothes complement her vivacious personality. Lighting Designer Bob Dover and his crew use clever techniques in order to mimic the glow of a television and the power surge during an electrocution, in addition to keeping the actors well-lit throughout the remainder of the performance.
Although I enjoyed the show, I was tired of watching the actors regularly address the audience. The bit wore thin quickly, and it was a bumpy ride every time this shtick was brought out. Overall, it was an entertaining time, and it was nice to return to The Vagabond Players for the first time since high school, where my uncle performed on this very same stage. This theatre is known for its unique and daring works, and Abducting Diana is no exception.
Abducting Diana plays through June 26th at The Vagabond Players, 806 South Broadway,Baltimore, MD. For tickets call (410) 563-9135, email the theatre email@example.com or purchase them online. The running time is about 85 minutes plus a 15-minute intermission.