By Toby Zinman
For the Inquirer
Philadelphia Artists' Collective has done it again! PAC has unearthed another antique play—this time the obscure Renaissance comedy, The Fair Maid of the West by Thomas Heywood-- polished it up and made it shine. Under Charlotte Northeast's brilliant direction, a rambunctious cast whips us into the rowdy audience the play demands, and we laugh and stamp our feet and clap and roar our approval.
The plot is outrageously silly: a chaste barmaid, one Bess Bridges (the superb and saucy Rachel Camp) falls in love with Spencer, a rich sea captain (Adam Altman); when he kills a man to defend her honor, he is forced to flee England, and then is wounded when pirates capture his ship. Meanwhile, a lewd rogue called Roughman (Dan Hodge, reaching new heights of geniused hilarity) pursues Bess.
Well, one thing leads to another, as it always does, and Bess disguises herself as a pirate captain and takes her loyal ladies (KC MacMillan, the Lantern Theater's director turned adorable actor, and Jennifer MacMillan, she of the supremely ironical face) to find Spencer, along with Spencer's friend Goodlack (Chris Fluck). They wind up in Morocco (don't ask) where the King (Brandon Pierce plays multiple roles, all funny, all in different ways) falls for Bess. At each stage of the game, two clowns (Robert DaPonte and Eric Scotolati) carry on with goofy gusto.
And so it continues to its hilarious and happy ending.
Providing more theatrical delight is the design team: Katherine Fritz has created some witty costumes and managed to make many locales of an almost bare stage, while Molly Warnken provides the comical props (loved the sheep). And cheers to the fight coordinator, Michael Cosenza, for some fancy dueling.
All told: don't miss this one!