A dry spell by their playwright Edmund Hoode puts Westfield’s Men, those princes of the Elizabethan theater, in the doldrums until they’re rescued by a new playwright with a good deal of criminal baggage.
Saul Hibbert is the unknown author of a promising new work, The Malevolent Comedy. Even though Hibbert is an obnoxious popinjay, Westfield’s Men agree to put the play into production. The premiere is a killer in more ways than one. Even when one of the actors is poisoned on stage, the quick thinking of bookholder Nicholas Bracewell (The Vagabond Clown, 2003, etc.) averts disaster, and the audience thinks it’s all part of the play. The second performance is disturbed by a stray dog that bites one of the actors, but the audience is even more amused. It’s obvious to Nicholas that someone is trying to ruin the production—perhaps some enemy of the odious Hibbert. Meantime, several of the company are trying to inspire Hoode by introducing him to the Opie sisters, one beautiful, the other studious. In a typical Elizabethan comedy of errors, Hoode falls for the wrong sister. By the time the young man playing the woman’s part is kidnapped, Nicholas has a definite idea who’s trying to ruin the production.
A wild romp with subplots as amusing as those of many an Elizabethan comedy.