Online theatrical programming can be anything from polished, professionally-crafted Shakespeare to an original script performed by a small local theatre group from their homes. This opens up a whole new world of theatre, especially for those who are confined to their homes for a variety of reasons due to the pandemic—whether they are performers, directors, crew, or the audience.
“Mrs. Hawking” is a new steampunk series written by Boston-area writers, Phoebe Roberts and Bernie Gabin. This production is presented by Breaking Light Productions, in partnership with The Manchester Community Theatre in New Hampshire. It combines some old-time melodrama with modern feminism and has generated a delightful video that was filmed live. While the creative team usually performs in person, the pandemic has forced them—like many other theatre groups—to find other outlets to reach theatre goers. The one positive result is that this local New England company can now be viewed by a broader audience.
The pace is quick and there are many surprises in the plot which is great fun. Though it is wonderful escapist entertainment, there is also a feminist theme.
Mrs. Victoria Hawking (Cari Keebaugh), an aloof dowager, meets Mary Stone (Circe Rowan), newly arrived from India. Mrs. Hawking employs Mary as her house girl, but later Mary becomes her helper in trying to free the young son of Mrs. Fairmont (Sarah Parisi Boci) from the villainous Lord Brockton (LilyDean ten Eicken). Also involved in the caper is Nathaniel Hawking (Christian Krenek), Mrs. Hawking’s 20-something nephew.
The pace is quick and there are many surprises in the plot which is great fun to watch. Though it is wonderful escapist entertainment, there is also a feminist theme. Mrs. Hawking helps women in need and succeeds when men cannot. She may have to disguise herself like a man, but it is a woman’s thinking, both the heroine’s and Mary Stone’s, that helps solve these crimes or resolve sticky situations. The men are either villainous or just along for the ride.
Roberts’ direction is tight and the action moves quickly from scene to scene.
Rowan brings a lightness and even a little comic relief to her character. She allows Mary to reveal her own personal strengths. Keebaugh makes a most believable heroine of exceptional ability. Her Mrs. Hawking can also be haughty but still vulnerable. You half expect to see ten Eicken twirl a moustache as Lord Brockton’s villainy is revealed. Krenek and Boci do a top-notch job in their supporting roles. I really appreciated that the British accents were steady and right for the characters’ stations in life.
The rest of the cast—James Tilton as John Colchester, Jackie Freyman as Clara Hawking, Michael McAfee as Walter Grainger, Jenn Benfield as Grace Monroe with Andrew Prentice, Kate Potter and Pieter Wallace as Ensemble—all help to enhance the play.
The set and lighting, which includes several locales, was designed by Carolyn Daitch. Each place has its own distinctive feel, whether it is Mrs. Hawkings home or a ballroom. The wonderful Victorian costumes are designed by Jenn Benfield. Jason Kuehl, Nick Silverman, and Jacob LaRocca are responsible for the sound which created a wonderful sense of 1880s England.
Gabin filmed the production and did the editing which appears to be almost flawless. The editing between scenes allows smooth passage from one locale to the other.
For those who like a good old-fashioned melodrama with a modern slant, this is a wonderful way to snuggle in, maybe with a glass of wine, and just enjoy a finely crafted, original theatrical event from the warmth and safety of your own personal theatre.
Running Time: Approximately one hour.
“Mrs. Hawking” was staged and performed specifically for the filmed recording at The Manchester Community Theatre in New Hampshire. For more information, go to their website. “Mrs. Hawking” can be viewed free and at your leisure on YouTube. Roberts and Gabin promise more adventures of Mrs. Hawking on their YouTube channel.