A storm rages outside as a young and lowly scullery maid plots her revenge against King Edward III. The plan is in place. The poison hidden in a ring. But someone in the castle has heard her plan and will betray the young woman. The storm outside becomes a symbol that will reflect the calamity about to happen in the castle. When the plan is revealed to the king, it sets off a chain of revelations that will change the lives of those in the castle and the history of England forever.
The Idle Muse Theatre Company Brings Medieval Drama to Life
THE SCULLERY MAID transports us to the 1300s and a different world where family ties and legacy are everything. The Edge Theater space begins to set the scene with medieval music playing upon entry. We see the stage set with gray stone walls that climb high around a kitchen with a log fire ready to prepare a feast.
First, we’re introduced to cooks of the castle, starting with Bess who has been there for many, many years. Dulcie on the other hand is new to the castle and tells us she is simple and not good at much else other than sleeping with the king. They are in the midst of serving a celebration feast as the war with France is over and England is now at peace.
The third cook and scullery maid, Miriam enters after she has been having a romp in the hay, quite literally as she was out in the stables with a man.
As Bess and Dulcie exit to serve the king and his guests, one of the king’s trusted men, Pascal, enters. We find out he and Miriam are about to enact a revenge plot to kill the king that very night.
It is not until the second act we find out why Miriam seeks vengeance on the king - she blames him for her father’s death.
But before the king drinks the wine she has poisoned, he reveals he knew about her plan all along. To prove his power he throws Miriam a dagger and tells her to try and kill him. Even though Miriam is determined, the king easily overpowers her.
When he has fended off her attacks, Edward brings in Pascal and tells her only one of them will survive. If she does not kill him, she will be killed instead. It seems like Miriam wouldn’t hurt her co-conspirator, but with new found information about who is truly on her side and who her family is, Miriam is faced with a difficult decision.
The choice she makes could set in motion the makings for another war.
Dry Script Elevated by Stellar Cast
The script of THE SCULLERY MAID can be a bit dry at times because most of the play is dependent on exposition and dialogue. The first act is used to set up context for the play and why Miriam is as bent on revenge as she is. Luckily, must of the exposition in the beginning is handled by Anne Marie Lewis playing Bess. When she’s onstage it seems like she was a cook in the king’s kitchen all her life and delivers her explanatory lines with ease.
The second act is mostly conversations between Miriam and Edward to show how they are more similar than they originally thought as their pasts are revealed.
The plot twists keep the story interesting. The play almost takes on a soap opera feel as characters are betrayed and discoveries are made. These twists and turns will keep you on your toes as more and more information is revealed about these characters.
Lydia Hiller plays Miriam with unwavering determination to seek revenge on the king because of a hatred she has been harboring for years. We connect with her because we perceive King Edward as a king only fit for war, and Miriam is an orphan because of it. We want her to succeed in her mission and feel as equally surprised as she does when it is revealed all she has worked for was for nothing.
Hiller’s fighting spirit is challenged by the equally impressive Dave Skvarla as King Edward III. Skvarla plays the king with quiet intensity at first as he lies in wait for Miriam to poison his drink. But when he prepares for a fight, he rises up and is a menacing force. He shows King Edward is a strategic thinker. He terrifies us so much so that when he and Miriam fight we are truly afraid, but cannot look away. They are absolutely captivating to watch.
If you’re not a fan of plays that are mostly dialogue driven, this play might not be for you. However, if you like historical plays with plot twists THE SCULLERY MAID might be right up your alley.
Now through April 9, 2017
Thursdays - Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 5pm
Mondays at 8pm
The Edge Theater
5451 N Broadway
Chicago, IL 60640
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO. Click here to read — Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves
and note: An excerpt of this play appears in Theatre in Chicago.