Big Scotch, Bagpipes, and Debauchery: Just Another Midwinter’s Eve

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart (that’s “pru-DEN-see-a,” not “pru-DEN-shuh,” for us Yanks) is described by its Shakespeare Theatre Company promotional literature as a “dreamlike journey of self discovery, magical moments, devilish encounters, and wittily wild karaoke.” If that sounds like your standard-issue weekend of sex, alcohol, and rock’n’roll, you’d be mistaken: it’s much better.

Here are a few more things that “TSUOPH” is: a story-within-a-story set within academia employing the literary form it parodies (honors?); an excuse to test Washington’s theatergoing public’s tolerance of Scottish folk music and suggestiveness (there’s plenty of both); a loose reproduction of minstrel style (writer David Greig delights in rhyming such phrases as “tit under bum/quod erat demonstrandum” and the frighteningly memorable “my idea of hell—a/middle aged man singing a capella”); and, most impressively, a modern interpretation of the traditional Scottish folk ballad form, incorporating everything from commentary on contemporary mores (Kylie Minogue is mentioned repeatedly, not to her advantage) to good staunch Scottish Calvinism (“That’s the thing about evil—you don’t choose it, it chooses you”).

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart

At first glance, the Bier Baron Tavern seems an odd choice of venue; however, both the setting and the performance style help make the audience part of the story as it unfolds around them. Fittingly for a folk ballad, the slender cast encourages audience participation (or, in more than one case last Saturday, forces it) and, perhaps aided by the adult beverages available for purchase during the performance, enthusiastic participation is what they receive. With merely a small stage as home base for their musical instruments (other props are scattered around the pub), the actors break free and perform in what the audience probably assumed was its personal space, allowing for direct engagement and resulting in a high energy performance.

“The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart” manages to incorporate lively Scottish beats, hauntingly beautiful ballads, and modern pop karaoke in a manner that actually works. If you’re looking for a performance engendering raucous laughter, one that pleases both ladies enamored of Scottish accents and gentlemen intent on drinking beer, then this is the production for you.

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia

Cloture Couple remind their friends of Mata Hari and Ernest Hemingway, except that they are much more daring and intriguing. When not writing theatre reviews for Cloture Club, they are involved with haute cuisine, oenology, and international intrigue. They are the most interesting people in the world. Or, at least, in their world.

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