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The Play's the Thing Reviewed

The title comes from Shakespeare`s Hamlet, "The play`s the think, wherein I`ll catch the conscience of the King!", when Hamlet is seeking to catch out his wicked stepfather. Such themes as revenge, madness, life and death and the agony of indecision are present. Of course we don`t have that sort of rubbish in XENA!! Well, not in the comedies anyway. Like Shakespeare, XENA too has comedies, tragedies and historys but let`s not get into all that now.

A Xena light comedy that has Gabrielle persuaded to put on a play - an adaptation of one of her scrolls by unscrupulous con woman Zehra (Jennifer Ward-Lealand). This episode sees Xena and Gabrielle return to Greece although we do open with them trying out some meditation techniques - presumably learnt in India. Soon Xena is off and Gabrielle is discovering the joys and pitfalls of the theatre. A bit of a homage to Shakespeare in Love, we get an amusing and light hearted look at plays the Ancient Greeks would never dream of performing.

Joxer returns - strange that, as soon as they get back to Greece they run into him? Greece must have been smaller then....The character of the con woman Zehra is played by the excellent Jennifer Ward Lealand, and she is very good bringing a nice humour and showbiz unscrupulous stuff to the episode, manipulating a rather daft Gabrielle. However, the comedy episodes are not ones in which to look for authenticity and consistency of character, just enjoy them. We have much to enjoy in this one - starting with the very funny casting session. Seeing all those Gabrielle and Xena lookalikes lined up was a hoot, and the "Xena" cast for her athletic prowess was amusingly dumb. The introduction of our old pal Minya was a nice touch. Alison Wall has excellent comic timing and can deliver a line very well. Also amusing was the actor/centaur Dustinus Hoofmanus played by the man who was Lucy Lawless` centaur boyfriend Deric. Wonder if he is worried about type casting? However, the amazement at seeing a centaur seemed a bit strange as we have seen plenty of them before and the reaction has tended to be disdain for the smelly creatures rather than the "oooh, a centaur!" feeling we get here.

Renee O`Connor is a wonderful comedienne, and I feel that her acting future really should go in that direction once XENA is over. Once again she shines. The peace loving Gabrielle has her patience sorely tried by having Joxer as her idiot producer, a less than stellar cast and a right dud of a play! Maybe Gabrielle`s pleasure at having a play made of her scroll blinded her to its lack of theatrical appeal. "Xena and Gabrielle: A Message of Peace" is not likely to be performed very often I feel, although "Faster Chakram, Kill, Kill, Kill!" stands a chance!

Lucy Lawless as Xena returns for the final punch up and we see Gabrielle hide behind the curtains to avoid the violence. Is this to be her new role during the action sequences? Throw in a nice gag at the end where Minya announce she is a thespian and an equally funny fade out on Joxer left hanging up by his feet and you have an episode that is very funny. I have enjoyed all the comedies this season with the exception of the dull A Tale of Two Muses. While those looking for the story of the characters and what happens next for them won`t get much joy in one like this, it is another well crafted episode with a sharp script from writers new to the Xenaverse, excellent performances led by Renee O`Connor and so many funny moments, it would take far too long to list them. What I want to know though, is where has Xena`s fringe gone!!?

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