Ren Faire! A Fistful of Ducats at Factory Theater | Theater review

The gags flow as freely as the mead in Matt Engle’s raucous renaissance-faire comedy.
Photograph: Paul Metreyeon Justine C. Turner and Matt Engle in Ren Faire! A Fistful of Ducats at Factory Theater
By Megan Powell |

If you’re going to love Ren Faire!, you’re going to have to love the Tull (as in Jethro). Matt Engle’s gut-busting play implies (and, at least in my experience, it’s true) that the master of the rock flute is synonymous with those bucolic summer festivals of wenches and hose, kings and queens, mead and turkey legs. In Factory’s raucous remount of its 2008 production, though, the Renaissance-faire formula is slightly adjusted. Jesters parody Raging Bull, the star sword-slinger Hero (Engle, channeling Kevin Kline at his pompous best) keeps slicing other performers, and most of the company itself is tweaked, thanks to mind-altering provisions from an unhinged beef wench (Jennifer Pompa, hilarious as a one-woman pharmacological dispensary). Moreover, the corrupt owner of a Wild West show on the other side of the interstate has designs on the faire’s site for a water park.

Kyle Hamman’s production reaches—lunges, even—beyond the usual Factory lampoonery, evoking Mel Brooks’s genre parodies like Blazing Saddles while displaying wicked wit, satisfying comic timing, and fantastic swordplay courtesy of Engle and Justine C. Turner (assured as the straight man amid much chaos). Despite the decidedly uncomplicated plot, it’s 90 minutes of loopy, cinematic fun that’ll make you root for the good guys in tunics—and turn you into a Tull fan for at least a night.