Shakespeare’s Women, Plays Well With Others and Synergy Therapy Theatre, at Heartland Studio Theater. A man and woman encounter each other in a private room on the fringes of a formal party. He desires further acquaintance. She hesitates. This spurs a debate on the female nature, entered into by guests also fleeing the revels to this sanctuary where–get this–everybody speaks Shakespeare!

It’s certainly valid to assemble various scenes from the repertoire relating to a specific topic. What hobbles this project, directed by Glenn Schudel, is not the actors’ physically restrictive garb or even the range of acting expertise–at best academically energetic and at worst bland as radio dispatches. What sinks this show is its montage structure, which forces the performers to leap from one confrontation to the next, giving them no time to establish characters or context. Audience attention is likewise split between the action onstage and their playbills, which might provide clues to this rapidly shifting universe. The observers’ commentary, written by Libby Appel and Michael Flachmann, only adds to the clutter.

And what conclusion is reached by this tour through Old Bill’s Greatest Hits? In its last moments, this well-meant but ill-executed experiment addresses the original question, but until then what we learn of Shakespeare’s women is that, for all their “infinite variety,” their conversation revolves around–you guessed it–men. For this they need to argue for two hours?