PROVIDENCE, RI โ€” What would it be like to have a conversation with yourself at three stages in your life?

I mean really talking to yourselves, as separate beings in youth, midlife and maturity.

The concept gave rise to Whitney White’s fascinating piece ‘By the Queen’, in its first production at the Trinity Repertory Company.

The conversation is one of three incarnations of Queen Margaret, a historical queen who appears in four of Shakespeare’s plays: ‘Henry VI, Parts 1, 2 and 3’ and ‘Richard III’.

Princess in France, Margaret was married at 15 to Henry VI of England, rose to power, fought wars, lost wars, had a son and eventually lost the grip of the famous Richard.

White explores her story through characterizations of her in Shakespeare’s plays, but simultaneously moves away and allows these three versions of Margaret to comment as contemporary women, as they reflect on her/their experiences.

The heart of the conversation is about what Margaret did to survive and how it changed her. That waging war literally, or in 21st century terms, metaphorically, was worth it. Give her a choice, would she choose power or love.

The way White layers cultures of centuries over 400 years apart is entertaining. The three Margarets speak, react and advise each other authentically, whether in the Elizabethan language and circumstances depicted in Shakespeare’s plays, or in the words and attitudes of modern women.

Humor is often a by-product of this juxtaposition of time and events. Mature Margaret notes, for example, that she lived in the mind of the greatest writer of all time; if you don’t agree on the size, send him an e-mail. Young Margaret hears herself talking about the dialogue as it is written by Shakespeare and reacts disparagingly: “Is that my next line?”

In Trinity, White’s new play is in the accomplished hands of director Brian McEleney, who has played his share of Shakespearean kings, and three splendid actors: Fiona Marie Maguire as young Margaret, Rachel Christopher as Margaret of mature and Paula Plum as mature. Daisy. Identified, respectively, as Margaret 1, 2, and 3, they consistently portray the personality of each Margaret, both in contemporary times and centuries earlier.

Surrounding Margaret(s) are their “supporting actors”: the kings, the would-be kings, the behind-the-scenes power-mongers who underestimate, reject, and ultimately must struggle with Margaret. Each is inventively written and performed by a mix of Trinity Company members and guest artists who deliver Shakespeare’s famous monologues โ€“ and sometimes carefree reactions โ€“ with panache.

The men are sometimes Shakespearean characters in their own right, sometimes contemporary commentators. But if players start to stray too far from the bard’s text, “Mr. Shakespeare Purist” steps in and redirects them.

Like the play, Toni Spadafora-Sadler’s costumes manage to cross centuries and cultures, with a loose rather than literal interpretation. The music pops up in surprisingly appropriate places, especially a snippet of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.”

White’s play is not an update but rather a fresh take on Shakespeare, examining a character that was arguably overlooked and chronicling what made him fascinating both 400 years ago and extrapolated today. Historical context and references to Shakespeare’s plays are seamlessly integrated into the script, so reading ahead is uplifting but not crucial for understanding.

Act I is particularly engaging and new as we meet Margaret and learn about the playwright’s method. Act II meanders before ending.

By the time “I Will Survive” plays, however, the mood is jubilant. “By the Queen” is fresh, fun, thoughtful – and still Shakespearean.

This world premiere production of “By the Queen” runs at the Trinity Rep at the Dowling Theater until February 12. Tickets start at $27 and are available online at trinityrep.com/queen or by contacting the box office at (401) 351-4242.



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