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Season 4, episode 17
Series 417
1st release: 03/15/99
2nd release: 06/21/99
Production number: V0620
Approximate shooting dates:
Last update: 04-14-99

SYNOPSIS 1 by Bluesong
COMMENTARY 1 by Beth Gaynor
COMMENTARY 5 by Videntur

Ted Raimi (Joxer)
Jennifer Ward-Lealand (Zehra)
Alison Wall (Minya)

Mark Hadlow (Milo)
Peter Muller (Dustinus Hoofmanus)
William Davis (Kaelus)
John McKee (Rivus)
Stephen Hall (Therax)
Mark Nua (Cleon)
Eduardo de Campos (Sophocles)
George Port (First Critic)
Polly Baigent (Paulina [who played Xena])
Mary Henderson (Woman #2)
Tammy Barker (speaking Gabrielle auditioner)
Denis Hoskins (Second Critic)
Rietta Austin (Woman #1)
Dee Wernham (Woman #3)

Written by Ashley Gable & Thomas A. Swyden
Edited by
Directed by Christopher Graves

Gabrielle unwittingly becomes a pawn in a theater scam.

Gabrielle makes her debut as a playright. Too bad her producer is actually a con artist who has her reasons for wanting the play to bomb.

Gabrielle unwittingly becomes a pawn in a theater scam when one of her scrolls falls into the hands of Zehra, the "Queen of Cons".

"The Queen of Cons" convinces Gabrielle to base a play on her adventures with Xena, so she can run off with the production's investment money.

Gabrielle makes her debut as a playwrite. Too bad her producer is actually a con artist who has her reasons for wanting the play to bomb

1st RELEASE: 03-15-99
An AA average of 3.1
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:
(1) X-FILES 10th at 5.3
(2) ER 13th with 4.3
(3) STAR TREK DS9 23rd with 3.5
(4) WALKER: TR 25th with 3.3

2nd RELEASE: 06-21-99
An AA average of 3.6
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:
(1) X-FILES 10th at 4.7
(2) ER 12th with 3.9
(3) XENA 17th with 3.6
(4) WALKER TEXAS RANGER 19th with 3.5
(5) HERCULES 23rd with 3.2


03-24-99. This synopsis is by Bluesong.

Xena and Gabrielle practice yoga. Gabrielle has lost her newest "favorite" scroll and is upset about it. Xena tells her to return to some town to look for it while she goes on to Arcon (?) to help out some prince. Gabrielle leaves Xena and trots off in search of her lost words. She's wearing her gold outfit from India, still.

Gabrielle meets a play producer who found her scroll in the restroom. She convinces Gabrielle to turn her brilliant words into a play, so this woman (Zere?) can produce the play. Joxer comes into the picture here and decides to help Gabrielle. Joxer and Gabrielle go off to make plans. Zere laughs about how she's duping Gabrielle, and hopefully the exercise will get Gabrielle killed.

Zere and her partner takes Gabrielle to an old run-down closed theater. Gabrielle is made director. Joxer is her helper. Gabrielle holds a casting call. She can't find anyone to play Gabrielle, but she casts the first person (apparently) who comes along as Xena. Minya shows up because she wants to be Xena, but Gabrielle's already cast the part. A haughty centaur arrives, too. Gabrielle is writing "a message of peace" and thinks everyone will want to hear her words. The producer meets with a warlord to get funding. Zere has taken the money of two warlords and promised each of them 75% of the profits. Zere makes Joxer a producer.

Gabrielle casts herself as "Gabrielle" (to no one's surprise). They rehearse the play, which is pretty syrupy. The cast tells Gabrielle they want blood and sex in the script. Gabrielle insists of her "vision". Joxer makes some changes behind Gabrielle's back. When they next rehearse, Xena has a skimpy costume, and there's a severed head on somebody's staff. Gabrielle gets upset and decides to go talk to Sophocles, "artist to artist". She discovers that Sophocles is a man she dislikes, and his plays reflect blood and sex. She goes back to her theater and tells the cast she wants blood and sex. She tells Zere she wants more money, which cuts into Zere's scam profits, so she goes and sees yet another warlord begging for funding. This warlord is somebody Xena beat up several times.

The play sells out the first night. During a play rehearsal, the three warlords separately sneak in and watch, and they like the blood and sex. Zere, who wants the play to flop so she can take the money and run, leaving Gabrielle hanging, tells Gabrielle that the warlords love the play and find it inspirational for their next campaign. So Gabrielle goes back to her "peace" message. The third warlord hits Joxer in the head as the play begins. The warlord and Joxer fight and interrupt the play. Xena shows up. Xena fights the warlords. The "play" (everyone fighting except Gabrielle) is considered successful. Minya and the girl playing "Xena" become fast friends. Minya tells Gabrielle that she has learned that deep down she's a .... thespian. Joxer is left hanging upside down in the theater.


03-24-99. Commentary Beth Gaynor.

I have mixed feelings about this episode. On the one hand, I lost track of the meta-layers as XenaStaff made fun of themselves not taking themselves seriously. This brought self-parody to new heights/depths, and I got a kick out of all the in-jokes. However, in order to do those jokes, we made Gabrielle a crappy bard, a worse playwright, and someone who couldn't think her way out of a wet paper bag of a problem. Boo.

Xena agreed to try yoga? This might be a momentous occasion, except that the yoga looked more like a return of the mehndi action poses. Maybe that's how Gab sold it: "Do the yoga with me. We'll call it yoga, but just do those cool poses again."

Cute pout from Xena when Gabrielle merrily takes off. "Aw, rats. All right, Argo, it's just you and me." Xena never sounded less thrilled with that prospect - Argo should be insulted. It reminded me of Gab's temper tantrum when Xena left her at the beginning of For Him the Bell Tolls.

Listen to one of Sophocles' bimbettes the first time they appear: "You're much funnier than Euripides!" Because we met Euripides in Athens Academy of the Performing Bards, we know that's not much of a compliment: nice guy, but a barrel of monkeys he ain't.

Why did Gab have her scroll in the bathroom? I've heard of bathroom readers, but bathroom writers? Or was Xena snitching parchment again?

OK, it's obvious, I know EVERYONE is saying it, but I gotta say it, too: the casting call looked like it was STRAIGHT out of a convention costume contest. For two seconds I started scanning faces just to make sure they didn't actually shoot it at a con.

Why were we hearing Xena warcries when the auditioning was for Gabrielles?

Minya still has Xena's whip. And is getting better and better with it all the time - nice smack of the Xena actress's feet!

Gabrielle is too pretentious to cast anyone but herself as herself, but will grab the first acrobat to play Xena? No screen time for Xena? Gab says Xena doesn't clobber skulls? Is Gab watching the same show we are? (Are the writers?)

We see people who are obviously supposed to be Callisto and Ares, but we never see them actually in the play.

Scene 84? Act 8?? How long was this play, 15 hours?

The hot tub was one long, running subtext gag. A hot tub for sex! Center stage for an eyeful! Open the curtain on a Xena-Gab smooch (look for it) and wet jokes!

Listen to the new title of the play as Joxer hangs its handbill: "Faster, chakram! Kill kill kill!"

Why was this resolution so lame? Xena shows up to save the day, which could have been explained so easily if Xena said she came back to see opening night and then spotted the trouble. But instead we find out that the "Queen of Cons" (has she met Rafe, her intended?) is apparently such a dumb con artist that her name is commonly known and she lets it be plastered across the playbills. But then again, the Queen is apparently only recognized by Xena. So either she's a very bad queen of cons, or hasn't settled into the title yet.

The new Way of Love Gabrielle's kick-butt fighting method: run and hide in wings. I'm SO depressed.

The thespian gag was kinda funny, especially Xena and Gabrielle's debate about it afterwards. ("She DID say 'thespian,' right?") It would have been a lot funnier if it hadn't already been done, and done more deftly, two seasons ago in Warrior... Princess... Tramp. ("It will only work if you're a convincing thespian!" "Hey, you never said nothin' about no kinky stuff.")

Final line of the show: "I'm going to tell my brother!" Would that be Jet? Or Sam Raimi, whose name appeared during the line?

Best gags of the episode:

  • "I'm not drunk, I just trip over things like that!"

  • Dustinus Hoffmanus, the difficult method actor

  • The animal growl with the deadpan shot of Gab's steamed face.

  • "What about the critics?" "It'll kill 'em all!" (A little too much time around the ex-warlord, Gab! That one put me on the floor for the first half of the commercial break.)

  • "Interactive theater! Everybody join in!" (Gab's smartest moment of the episode)

  • "There's the opening of Buffus the Bacchae Slayer across the street." (HA! Hey, it's only fair; Buffy mentioned Xena a whole season ago.)


    03-24-99. Commentary Xorys.

    I don't think this ep exactly calls for a massive theoretical overview. It does seem to me that the ep continues a trend, started, I think, by Fins, Femmes and Gems, whereby comedy eps are not so much actual XWP eps themselves, as skits or spoofs *about* XWP, which just happen to use the actual cast. Earlier comedy eps, such as Warrior...Princess or the much later Been There Done That, and to an even greater extent eps which mixed comedy and serious elements, such as The Greater Good and The Furies, were funny, but also functioned as actual XWP eps... they seemed to exist more or less consistently within the fictive world of the show, and they seemed to contain the actual characters from the show. Whereas with the more recent comedy eps, there seems to have been an increasing trend to "stepping outside the frame" of the show... so the circumstances are barely, if at all, consistent with the regular fictive world of the show, the regular characters are portrayed more as exaggerated spoofs or parodies of themselves, and significant elements of the humour draw on making fun of the show itself, and elements of popular culture related to it, requiring the viewer to suspend suspension of disbelief, and stay aware that they are watching a TV parody, in order to "get" the joke...

    Now, that said, I have to say that I found The Play's The Thing *very* funny. In fact I probably laughed out loud at it more than I have at any other XWP ep. TPTB certainly showed in this one that they're prepared to make fun of pretty much everything about the show, themselves, the fans... but whilst much of it was wickedly funny, I didn't find any of it negative or mean-spirited, and I was quite happy to laugh along with it. Plus I've dabbled in (amateur) dramatics from time to time, and have a real weakness for anything set in the world of theatre.

    I suppose the other thing that calls for some overview comment is the treatment of Gab in this ep. I have to admit that whilst I identify heavily with Xena, my perspective on Gab's character has always been very much as an outsider, with never more than a partial ability to understand her... so I suppose those who identify heavily with Gab may perceive this ep differently to me. For me Gab was not really presented inconsistently in this ep... but she was certainly exaggerated for comic effect. So everything we saw did reflect elements of Gab's personality as it has been presented all along, but these personality traits were played large, deliberately blown out of proportion, in order to feed the humour. I have to say that this didn't really annoy me (although I'm being a bit defensive, because I guess it may have annoyed others...) In a way I found the recognition of these traits in treating them comically this way reassuring - given the degree of awareness about Gab's character that the humour in this ep showed, it seems less likely that TPTB will fall into the traps they seem to have been setting for themselves with the recent development of her character. Am I making myself at all clear here? I guess what I'm trying to say is that even though this ep was a bit cruel to Gab in some ways, lampooning both her weaknesses and her aspirations, still I felt that it reaffirmed an awareness of her character's humanity, and made it clear that TPTB are unlikely to make the mistake of letting her become some sort of plaster saint.

    So, let's take our usual wander through the contents of the ep....

    It's not terribly relevant to anything that happens in the ep, but we should perhaps start by noting that the title comes from Shakespeare's great tragedy Hamlet... Hamlet's father, the King of Denmark, has been secretly murdered by his Uncle Claudius, who has assumed the throne... Hamlet knows of the murder because his father's ghost has appeared and told him of it... he encounters a band of wandering players and hires them to put on a play at the royal court, depicting a king being murdered by his brother, in circumstances identical to Claudius' murder of Hamlet's father... Hamlet hopes thus to be able to confirm Claudius' guilt by watching his reaction (Hamlet doesn't entirely trust the ghost)... and within this context Hamlet utters the line "the play's the thing / Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king."

    Apart from the title, I don't see that this ep bears any particular relation to Hamlet. What it clearly does bear a fairly close resemblance to is the 1968 Mel Brooks film The Producers, which starred Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder... that movie had a very similar plot to this ep, where Wilder and Mostel play theatrical producers who hit on a scheme for making money by producing a play that is sure to fail... and the title they come up with for their sure-fire failure is Springtime For Hitler... (your eyes)... this is pretty much the only Indian music in this ep - I wonder if it will be the last Indian music we get to hear on X:WP, now that India itself has been left behind...?

    Xena and Gab *both* seem to be doing Yoga now... or at least I suppose that statuesque Indian pose Xena was assuming was some form of Yoga...

    Cute crown Gab had made herself from the flowers in the field - she seems to like that sort of thing (it reminded me of her acceptance into Najara's "way of light" - but not her, apparently).

    So Gab has left her scroll somewhere in Piraeus and Xena has to go and help the Prince in Arcon. I always find the place names they come up with intriguing, if sometimes rather challenging. Piraeus was a very famous city in the ancient world - it was the main port of Athens, situated on a peninsula, about 5 miles from Athens itself. I don't know of any special association between Piraeus and the theatre, although Athens itself was the source of pretty much all the Greek drama that survives to us. And there wasn't any sign that the "Piraeus" (or "Parius" as the CC had it) that we saw in this ep was a port of any kind. Arcon, OTOH, whilst sounding like a fairly probable place name, doesn't correspond to an ancient Greek town or province that I know of.

    I thought the "Well when I say 'Don't mention it'..." thing was kind of silly and overdone - I really don't care for it when they just sort of discard Xena's character to have her clown around like this in comedy eps. And they really hammered this one into the ground, right down to the "... Ah rats! Alright Argo, it's just you and me..." Fortunately, from my point of view, this was about the worst bit in the whole ep... so I was spared another In Sickness And In Hell (which I felt would have been better not made, because it was full of this sort of thing).

    BTW, I see Argo has conveniently been picked up from wherever she was parked whilst they were in India (even though, in In Sickness And In Hell, Xena promised not to leave Argo behind again...)

    I loved the "You're a *lot* funnier than Euripides!" line that we heard one of the hangers on saying! Of course, this joke only really makes sense when you're rewatching the ep, and you know the character being addressed is Sophocles. Sophocles and Euripides are both mainly remembered as writers of great tragedies, so the question of which of them is "funnier" is probably moot... however Euripides tended to treat his characters in a more down-to-earth and human way, so a certain humour might be found in some of his work, whereas it would be hard to point to much of a risible nature in the extant works of Sophocles.

    Perhaps we might digress a moment here on the subject of Greek dramatists and XWP... Sophocles was born around 495 BCE, and Euripides about 15 years later (so they'd both be pretty long in the tooth, for example, in the time of Julius Caesar). OTOH, we saw Euripides previously in Athens City Academy Of The Performing Bards, at which time he appeared to be perhaps a little younger than Gab herself... based on which, we might expect Sophocles to be about 15 years or a little less older than Gab - in which case, he isn't wearing very well at all, based on his appearance in The Play's The Thing. We were also told, in Death In Chains, that Gab knew all the works of Sophocles off by heart... and I rather got the impression he was considered to be dead at the time. Which would be fairly reasonable, since in Forgiven, Gab mentioned (in the charades game) the play Iphigenia In Aulos, which Euripides wrote in his old age... Time and tide may wait for no one - but they're certainly pretty darned flexible in the Xenaverse!

    Of course they make the intended Hollywood parallel quite clear with Sophocles' departing line: "She'll never work in this town again..."

    "I'm not drunk - I just trip over things like that!" - a rare moment of honest self perception from Joxer, there.

    "Wow! Gabrielle! Your hair! Did that hurt? What's that you're wearing?" "Sari" "Don't apologise - it looks good!" Well, I suppose this joke was inevitable, so we might as well get it over with! Actually what Gab is wearing now bears fairly little resemblance to a sari - the skirt, which would normally be ankle length, has retreated to mid-thigh, and the top, wrap-around portion, which should be broad (about 45 inches, normally) and all-of-a-piece with the skirt, has now degenerated into a token detached scarf. Only the blouse is still pretty much like the standard Indian garment. The overall result does look a little like what poor Indian women doing manual work in dirty conditions sometimes wear - but it shows far more skin... And Joxer's mistaking the "mehndi" for tattoos was certainly perfectly reasonable, since it looks far more like tattooing than it does like any mehndi I've ever seen.

    I see Joxer's still on his thing about Gab's feelings for him... I thought he might have got over this, since he didn't even comment on her absence in Key To The Kingdom, and although she was the Princess in his version of the tale, he didn't seem too struck in If The Shoe Fits...

    "Piraeus is the great Appian Way - you know I could spend a week going to all these plays..." Now why Gab should say that Piraeus is "the great Appian Way" as a way of indicating that it's a centre for theatre I just don't see. The Appian Way, or Appia Via, was perhaps the most famous of Roman roads, connecting Rome with southern Italy. Gab might well be aware of it (its construction was started before 300 BCE, and it continued in use throughout the time of the Roman Republic and the Empire), but I don't believe it ever had any association with drama. Of course, I assume they're just punning on the fact that Broadway is referred to as "the great white way" (and why is that, BTW?)

    "Yeah - I love theatre myself... Euripacles and Sopho...more." "Euripides. Sophocles." "Yeah, those guys too..." Well heck, if a joke's been working for decades, where's the need to change it much!

    And Gab wants Sophocles to be her mentor, because his writing is 'perfect' - well, she knows it all by heart, according to Talus...

    So let me get this straight... Gab is very attached to this scroll, but she left it in the can?

    Jennifer Ward-Lealand is clearly quite the versatile actor (well I gather she does major work on the stage in NZ, apart from her TV and film stuff...) She didn't remind me of Boadicea at all here... indeed, if I hadn't been forewarned by the TV Guide description, I don't know that I would have even realised it was the same person. OTOH, I did find her portrayal of Zera distinctly reminiscent of Jamie Lee Curtis in comic roles (e.g. A Fish Called Wanda, True Lies...)

    Gab always has been a sucker for a combination of appeals to her vanity and to her desire to save the world...

    Where does Humongous come from? We haven't heard of him before, have we? I was thinking of the video game - but that's "Horrungus" or something, isn't it?

    "Athen's Academy Theatre presents Sophocles' 'The Women Of Trachis' Titan Playhouse, direct from Rome, ' A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Acropolis', Original Cast! By-The-Gods Performing Arts Center, 30th Smash Week! 'Oh Zeus' A Divine Comedy. Laugh or be smitten!" Good stuff, eh? Several chuckles there. I particularly liked the "By-The-Gods Performing Arts Center". And the pun on Divine Comedy isn't bad either (although I don't suppose ancient Greeks would get the reference to Dante). "The Women Of Trachis" is an actual play by Sophocles... one of only seven out of well over hundred which he wrote to have survived. It is perhaps the least well known of Sophocles' surviving works (unless perhaps Philoctetes is even less well known). It tells the story of the tragic end to the marriage of Hercules (well Heracles to the Greeks) and Deianira... as a result of doubt and misunderstanding they both die horrible deaths. Not exactly a barrel of laughs...

    So Zera believes in the "auteur theory", eh? This refers to the idea, generally attributed to the French (hence the French word "auteur", meaning, basically, "author"), that a film should essentially be the creation of a single person, whose creative intelligence controls every aspect of what ultimately appears on the screen... (Stanley Kubrick was a well known non-French believer in this theory.)

    If that poster Joxer was putting up said "Open Casting Call... Gabrielle and Xena: A Message Of Peace", then the language used must be very concise... there only appeared to be four words on the entire poster - a big one at the top, a big one at the bottom, and two small ones in the middle. And what about telling folks where and when the 'casting call' is? And why am I not surprised that Gab's name is first...?

    I love the line-up of look-alikes, complete with mutterings of "I have many skills" and war-cries! Definitely a nod (or something) at the fans, there. I thought it was quite sweet though - I enjoyed seeing the look-alikes, just as I always enjoy seeing those who have the courage, sense of theatre, and inventiveness to dress up for fan gatherings. (The closest I've ever ventured myself was an impromptu "follower of Dahak" outfit...)

    And of course, Gab can't cast Gabrielle at all because of the "subtlety to the character", but OTOH, she casts the first person who tries out for Xena: "Xena requires more of an athlete..." They were definitely letting themselves have quite a bit of fun here, eh? I guess Gab shares Stephen Sears' view that she's really the hero of the show...

    I thought the play Xena was... well, very striking. She reminded me of someone, but I can't quite place who (certainly not Xena though!) She was terrific in the role... really capturing the inept enthusiasm, whilst being very sympathetic. (Polly Baigent, who played her, is quite an athlete really, and has been one of Lucy's regular doubles for Xena since right back near the start of the show...)

    "I can too shoe a mule! Shoo!" Touche! (Another old joke, mind you...)

    Dustinus Hoofmanus the centaur, indeed! "I do not play quadrupeds!" "I am an actor - I *refuse* to limit myself!" And this was another rather inspired piece of casting, since Dustin was played by Peter Muller, who played one of the most famous Centaurs in the Xenaverse, Deric, whose wife, Lyla, Lucy Lawless played in the HTLJ eps As Darkness Falls and The Outcast.

    Gab say "Sophocles is the master of prose!" This is a slightly odd pronouncement, since, so far as we know, Sophocles wrote entirely in verse...

    The scam Zera is working (apart from being borrowed from The Producers) is pretty much the oldest there is - but hey, this is *ancient* Greece...

    Why the heck was the play Xena cleaning her nails with a modern carpet knife?

    I quite liked the look of the play Ares too, especially the beard (g) - it's a pity he didn't get any lines...

    "Only one person can fully capture the spiritual essence of Gabrielle..." Yeah, yeah, Gab... As Minya said, "as if we didn't see *that* coming!"

    And Dustinus Hoofmanus gets to play King Wences? What, as in "good King Wences last looked out"? (Well that's what I always thought it was as a kid... but then when we sang "When a knight won his spurs in the stories of old... For god and for valour he rode through the land" I always thought that "Valour" was the name of the knight's girlfriend... and let's not even talk about Gladly, the cross-eyed bear!)

    "The warlord Humongous is behaving in a destructive way... no doubt as a result of his impoverished upbringing and other societal factors beyond his control..." "Come. Sit down. We wish to give you A MESSAGE OF PEACE." "Okay." Great stuff, eh?

    "Maybe if we just had a different title..." "Like what? Springtime For Warlords?" Hmm... I guess Gab must have seen The Producers - maybe during one her jaunts into her future lives.

    "Blood, Guts and Babes" Or Minya's suggestion, "Wild Men In Rubber" (Hmmm... she certainly has eclectic tastes...) Or perhaps my favourite, "Big Boys In Boxers"

    "Well, well, well! Aren't you all ashamed of yourselves...?" This is pretty much a requisite scene in any "putting on a play" drama. BTW, if you have any taste at all for this kind of thing, then let me recommend a couple of fairly recent films you *really* should see. Kenneth Branagh's "A Midwinter's Tale" (also known as "In The Bleak Midwinter") is a cheap little film, shot in B&W, about a bunch of people trying to put on Hamlet in a disused church in England. It pretty much included all the cliches of the genre, but it's also, IMO, a *great* movie, the best thing Branagh's done. Julia Sawalha (Saffy in Absolutely Fabulous) co-stars, and is terrific... but the whole cast is excellent. Another not-to-be-missed theatrical drama is Christopher Guest's Waiting For Guffman. This one is as American as Midwinter's Tale is British... and is a hilarious, loving, dead-on tribute to amateur theatre. Interestingly enough, both these films are somewhat examples of the "auteur theory", each being directed by its writer. OK, sorry... back on topic (hopefully)

    OK, I wasn't quite right about the opening music being the only Indian music in this ep - when Gab is doing yoga and assuring herself "I have inner peace. I *can* work with amateurs!", we hear the sitar and the bansuri playing. And BTW, when did Gab suddenly get to be a theatre "professional"? "Working with amateurs" indeed!

    "A little eye-candy. What's the harm? It doesn't affect the vision thing... it's all still the same..." Methinks TPTB are sending up their own production style more than a little here...

    Oh whoops! Apparently Dustinus' character is called King Whatsis, not King Wences...

    "These are your changes? Blood? Sex?" "And a... hottub. I got the guys working on it in the back..." Can't help loving this stuff. (Also can't help thinking that the writers of this ep, who I've never heard of before, must have more than a passing familiarity with fandom...)

    "Artists aren't supposed to care what the public wants... we aren't doing this for money!" "Well I am..." "So am I..."

    So Gab goes off to ask Sophocles' advice, "artist to artist" - but the current production of Sophocles' "Women Of Trachis" appears to be being produced by Busby Berkeley, with a little help from Sam Peckinpah... and the special effects, with one guy's head knocked off, while the other guy is cut in half, are pretty "state of the art" for ancient Greek theatre. And Sophocles, of course, turns out to be the boor from Gab's arrival in Piraeus.

    So Gabs has a try at rationalising putting on a commercial production: "A message means nothing if no one hears it. A flower in the forest is just a plant if no one sees it..."

    "What about the critics?" "It'll kill 'em all!"

    And now the play's name is changed to "Faster Chakram! Kill, Kill, Kill!" This just about had me in hysterics, I must admit. For any who don't recognise it, this is a homage to one of the biggest schlockmeisters ever to work in American cinema, Russ Meyer, and specifically to his 1965 opus "Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" I don't entirely know what to say about this film... in some ways it's absolutely dreadful, but still if you haven't seen it, I'd have to recommend that you do... and I suppose in a strange and twisted way, it could almost be seen as an antecedent of Xena.

    Unless I'm mistaken, the poster *next* to the one Joxer was putting up for Gab's play appeared to have been illustrated by William Blake, the 18th century artist and poet - well it wasn't very clear, but it certainly looked like his style...

    Xena defeated Cleon twice and humiliated him. When? I thought this was a reference to something in an actual ep, but now I'm not at all sure, since I can't place it...

    I wasn't too sure about the wood nymphs, or whatever they were supposed to be, singing about the "action-packed tale of Xena. Xena! Xena! Xena, Warrior Princess! Oooh!" (G) (Actually I thought it was kind of cute...)

    And couldn't they have managed some kind of body stockings or towels or something for the hottub scene? (Believe me, bathing in leather is *not* a good idea...)

    "Oh, the power, the passion, the danger... the blood... the " - Kaelus seems to be in tune with what this is all about...

    "If the play's a success, we're d.." "Don't say the delta word!" What? Doomed? Debtors? Discombobulated?

    "We have to get Gabrielle back to that boring, pretentious, heavy-handed material we fell in love with..." Ouch! A bit hard on poor old Gab, eh?

    "I don't care how much money we lose - it's going to be peace, love and changing the world..." (Which isn't exactly very generous, considering that none of it is her money in the first place...)

    The writing in this ep, e.g. on the posters and marquees, looked more like actual Greek lettering, rather than the random sigils they usually use - but I don't really read Greek, so I couldn't make much out from it. And, of course, the name of the theatre, "Apollo", was in Roman lettering. Did anyone make any sense of any of the "Greek"?

    "Criticus from Varietus is in the audience" - presumably a pun on "Variety"... I had great trouble making this line out though - I had no idea *what* Joxer was talking about the first time I watched the ep.

    I didn't really understand why Cleon was wandering around backstage hitting people over the head... I thought his motivation was supposed to be something to do with learning Xena's secrets...

    I liked some of the little "theatrical" touches - like the way that when Gab stepped out from between the curtains, the spot came on in the wrong place, and she had to walk sideways into it. That is *so* "amateur theatre"!

    "Joxer!" "Danger! Violence! Blood!" "No... that was the good version..."

    "We will bring him A MESSAGE OF PEACE!" I loved the cardboard dove!

    "Oh go away! You're not even a good actress!" "Now that was a little uncalled for!" Fun little ironies here - with all the "who's the actor", "who's the stand-in", "who can really fight and who can't" stuff...

    "I knew there'd be trouble when I saw the playbill - it listed Zera as the contact... she's the Queen of ons!" OK, pardon me for a minute, but I see a number of problems here... 1) If Xena was in Arcon helping the Prince, *how* did she see the playbill? Did Joxer send some out by pigeon? 2) Well I guess we just have to allow that Xena is a sort of walking "Criminal Records Office" and has the name of every miscreant in the known world on file in her brain, but 3)If Zera is known as "The Queen of Cons", doesn't it ever occur to her, for Zeus' sake, to use a *false* name?! I guess these ancient Greek criminals just weren't too sophisticated...

    Have we ever seen Xena crack her knuckles before a fight before?

    "Oooh! A Centaur!" I'm not quite sure what the point of this was... unless it was a (sort of) reference to Tootsie...

    "The play's not bad... I just don't buy that Xena." "There's the opening of 'Buffus, the Bacchae Slayer' across the street..." Hmm... returning the complement, eh (since Xena has been mentioned on Buffy at least once... "Couldn't she have come as Xena?")

    "I was stupid... to think that people would want to hear about peace and love, instead of sex and violence." "Well peace might be boring, but it's all anybody really wants..." "Yeah... No one wants to be preached to. They have to experience things for themselves." Hmm... Well I'm not too sure about peace being "all anybody really wants"... Certainly, if you mean civil peace, as opposed to war, yes, people want peace to live, for themselves, and for those they love. But in general, people want more than 'peace' in their lives... "The grave's a fine and private place / But few, I think, do there embrace..." And what can Gab really work out about people not wanting to be preached to? Well, we shall have to wait until we see how she handles herself in future dramatic eps... but if she bears in mind this stuff about people experiencing things for themselves and not wanting to be preached to, that would be a step in the right direction, IMO.

    "Gabrielle... I want to thank you. I never would have met Paulina if it wasn't for you! In fact the two of you made me realise something deep down about myself that I guess I always knew, but just didn't dare admit... Yes... I'm a thespian!" "Congratulations - you managed to touch *someone*!" "That's not exactly what I had in mind. I wanted to change violent people into people of peace. Not actors. That is what she said - right? Deep down she's a thespian?" "Yeah. I mean... that's what she... *said*... Why? What'd'ya think?" Well I certainly laughed at this... more than once, actually. Although I'm left with a little ambivalence. TPTB certainly seem prepared to laugh at themselves, so I guess they're entitled to laugh at the fans. But somehow I sense something a little... I don't now... 'distancing' here. Or am I just being over-sensitive here? Quite possibly...

    BTW, for any who are still somewhat confused, a "thespian" is a practitioner of the theatrical arts, specifically an actor, so named for the 6th century BCE Greek tragedian Thespis, who is reputed to have introduced the use of individual actors to the drama (which previously consisted only of choruses).

    And poor old Joxer is left hanging again... I liked the way they actually played his "I'm gonna tell my brother!" line right over Sam's Executive Producer credit. They were definitely out to have a bit of fun with us in this one... (Although, of course, *Joxer's* brother would be either Jett or Jace... and I don't see any point in telling either of them - so presumably this was just an out-of-character joke... bringing us back to the point about how the comedy eps have become increasingly spoofs *about* the show...)


    03-24-99. Commentary Videntur.

    In general, I thought this was a good episode except that I am never 100% pleased with “Xena-light” episodes; however, I liked the idea of Gabrielle going back to the way she was at the beginning of the Xena episodes - a bard that preaches peace. I also liked the idea of our hero saving the day at the end of the show.

    I feel the episode definitely showed that messages must sometimes be packaged differently from their contents if you want to obtain the attention of the people you are trying to direct the message to. Gabrielle wanted to preach peace; however, she had to package it in violence in order to obtain the attention of the warlords who she was trying to direct this message to. The question becomes, just how much of your morals are you willing to give up in order to deliver your message. Gabrielle showed at the end that she was giving up too much and that if the message had to be packaged in something that was so far from the actual message, it wasn’t worth it. However, as Xena told Gabrielle, everyone really wants peace but just as Gabrielle also stated, no one wants to be preached to. The episode definitely shows that the preacher of peace has a hard road to walk. The episode also shows that if people don’t want to change, neither the packaging nor the message will have the desired effect. The violence of Gabrielle’s Play definitely drew the attention of the Warlords but these were hard-core violent people who had no intention of changing. As I mentioned last week, in cases like this, does it takes violence to maintain peace? In this episode, it took Xena the Warrior to use violence to bring back peace and restrain evil (the Warlords) showing that at times violence must be used to maintain peace and restrain a greater violence. The show also showed that even though Gabrielle is trying hard to practice the way of love and peace, she is afterall human and tends to give into the human flaws that affect all of us.

    My favorite parts in this episode were in the beginning where Xena has hurt feelings over Gabrielle not even looking back before she takes off and the very end when Xena saves the day. I also liked the way that Gabrielle felt no one could play the part of Gabrielle but herself.

    I would like to make a note that I like Xena with bangs and Gabrielle with long hair and will be happy when the bangs and long hair come back. I also wish that Xena would go back to her more feminine way of walking. Let me also say that I hope this is the last of the “Xena-light” episodes. I like the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle, but I honestly watch the show more for its “Xena-action” than I do for its “Gabrielle-action”. Lately, the show has been focusing on Gabrielle, her physical appearance and her “finding her way.” This is all very nice, but as I have mentioned many times, the show is called Xena, Warrior Princess and I prefer it when the focus is on Lucy Lawless. ROC is a very attractive young lady; however, Lucy Lawless is stunningly beautiful and definitely a woman that portrays power. The message that Xena portrays is courage, confidence, knowledge and a woman that defends her beliefs and the people she cares about without concern to her own safety - all of which is carried out superbly by Lucy Lawless alias Xena. I know seven of my friends who were definitely disappointed in the lack of Lucy Lawless’s appearance in this episode. When the two actresses are put together the chemistry is great and you have a great show. As I have said in a few of my previous commentaries, I wish the writers would stop focusing on Gabrielle and get back to Xena, Warrior princess - her adventures and her friendship with her bard. I also wish Ares would come back into the picture because he was indeed the coolest of all the gods portrayed so far.


    By Xorys.

    03-24-99. So who was who in The Play's The Thing?

    Well, you'll have to bear with me a bit here, because the cast of this ep was fairly large, and frankly the cross-referencing of all their prior roles and connections gets *very* complicated...

    Jennifer Ward-Lealand, who play Zehra, the Queen of Cons, is, as most of you probably know, married to Michael (Iolaus) Hurst. She has been previously seen on XWP as Boadicea in The Deliverer. She also appeared in the HTLJ ep All That Glitters as Voluptua. Jennifer is apparently a well known stage actress in NZ, and she's no stranger to comedy, as she did a stint on the Australian satirical sketch show "Full Frontal" (which can be seen on some cable channels in North America).

    Jennifer also appeared, as Isobel Kearney, on the NZ soap "Shortland Street", which has featured *many* actors seen in the Xenaverse... here's a partial list of Xenaverse denizens who've graced Shortland Street with their presence: Lisa Chappell (Daughter #1 in Hercules and the Circle of Fire, Lydia in Pride Comes Before A Brawl, Dirce in The King of Thieves and The Wedding of Alcmene, Princess Melissa in War Brides, Queen Melissa and Dirce in Hercules on Trial, and Melissa Blake in Yes Virginia There is A Hercules and For Those of You Just Joining Us), Marton Csokas (Borias, Khrafstar, Tarlus in Promises), Meighan Desmond (Discord), Paul Gittens (Kaleipus in OOW and PI, Thanis in Protean Challenge, Lonius in Prince Hercules), Dean O'Gorman (Iloran in The Gauntlet, Orion in ACAOTBP, Young Iolaus on HTLJ and YH, Ruun in Prodigal Sister), Craig Parker (Sarpedon in FHTBT, King Cleades in Key To The Kingdom), Jay Saussey (Dead Amazon in AITST, Village Girl in Hercules and the Lost Kingdom, Oena in And Fancy Free and Greece Is Burning), Danielle Cormack (Ephiny), Lisa Crittenden (Hecuba in AFA), Mark Ferguson (Krykus in H&H and RN, Dagnine in OOW and PI, John Smythe in TXS, Prometheus in Hercules and the Circle of Fire, Hades in Hercules in the Underworld, Craesus in As Darkness Falls), Rebecca Hobbs (Woman #1 in Ares, Elora in The Siege At Naxos, Katrina in Doomsday), Murray Keane (Hower in ADITL, Tiber in Hercules And The Amazon Women, Hermes in Porkules), Sarah Smuts Kennedy (Kara in Mercenary and Hercules On Trial, Leandra in Love Takes A Holiday), Peter McCauley (Talmadeus in TGG, Gekkus in Men In Pink, Ajax in War Wounds, Odin in Norse by Norsevest and Somewhere Over Rainbow Bridge), Scott Michaelson (the horrible Apollo in Top God and Reunions), Charlotte Pennington (the Sister in Mercenary), Simon Prast (Nemos in COH, First Soldier in What's in A Name, Patronius in The Wedding of Alcmene), Todd Rippon (Goliath in GK, Macon in Tsunami, Malus the Hood in Hercules and the Lost Kingdom, Goudrin in The Festival of Dionysus), Caleb Ross (Nico in A Rock and a Hard Place), David Stott (the Boatman in Pride Comes Before A Brawl, Paraicles in All That Glitters, Thief #1 in Mummy Dearest, Salmoneus Double in Genies and Grecians and Geeks).

    Jennifer Ward-Lealand can be seen in quite a number of films too. Most recently she appeared in the NZ horror movie about a serial killer, "The Ugly", which is currently on video store shelves as a new release. This movie also features Beth Allen (Vanessa/Pilee in DOP), Katrina Browne (Mendala in WIR, Thelassa in LUATD, Siri in Prodigal Sister), Rebecca Hobbs (Woman #1 in Ares, Elora in The Siege At Naxos, Katrina in Doomsday), Paul Glover (Menticles in The Price, Josephus in What's in A Name, Brontus in Let the Games Begin, Roberto Orci in Yes Virginia There is A Hercules, Danaeus in Descent), Christopher Graham (Toxeus in DIC and MB, Slave Boss in RN, Colchis in Porkules), Jon Brazier (Walsim in TDHD, Tarsis in VA, Mercenary #2 in The Vanishing Dead, Jakar in The Outcast, Slave Trader in The Fire Down Below, Trinculos in A Star to Guide Them), Michael Dwyer (Theodorus in The Warrior Princess, Ruffian #1 in The Quest, Thug #2 in The Festival of Dionysus), and Darien Takle (Cyrene, Xena's mother, in SOTP, IS, and The Furies)... so, another one with a *lot* of familiar faces for Xenites.

    Jennifer can also be seen in the 1993 NZ film "Desperate Remedies", which also features Kevin Smith (Ares), Lisa Chappell (see above), and Jennifer's spouse Michael Hurst. Jennifer and Michael also both appear in the 1992 NZ feature "The Footstep Man" - I haven't seen this one, but I'd certainly be curious to... apparently Michael plays Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in it! "The Footstep Man" also features Sarah Smuts Kennedy (see above), Geoff Snell (Herodotus, Gab and Lila's dad, in SOTP and AFA, Ellis [Willa O'Neill's dad again] in And Fancy Free, Peasant #2 in Hercules and the Circle of Fire, and Clytus in The Enforcer) and Grant McFarland (Ming Tzu in The Debt, First Ruffian in Cave of Echoes).

    Another NZ feature in which both Jennifer and Michael can be seen, presumably looking noticeably more youthful, is the 1985 production "Dangerous Orphans", which also has various other actors who would later show up in the Xenaverse - Ian Mune (Menas Maxius in Gladiator, King Sidon in The Apple), Grant Tilly (Toth in The Lady and the Dragon), Peter Vere-Jones (King Silvas in ASC, Zeus in Judgement Day), Desmond Kelly (Elkton in Dreamworker) and Tim Lee (the Regent of Skiros in HSCMA, Acestus in ISAIH, Ilus in Hercules And The Amazon Women).

    Jennifer can also be seen in the 1994 NZ short "A Game with No Rules", in which she co-stars with Danielle Cormack (Ephiny).

    And although Jennifer can't actually be seen in the 1994 feature "Heavenly Creatures", she apparently worked on that production as an acting coach. This film was one of Kate Winslett's first major acting gigs, and personally I would highly recommend it (but with the notation that it is based on a strange and tragic murder case, and may be disturbing for some).

    Zehra's unctuous sidekick Milo was played by Mark Hadlow. Mark has never been seen in the Xenaverse before, but he has done some NZ film work, predictably working with various folks familiar to us. Mark played the Rugby Coach in the 1995 film "Bonjour Timothy", which was apparently some kind of NZ/Canada co-production, and which starred Dean O'Gorman (Orion in ACAOTBP, Young Iolaus on HTLJ and YH), and also featured Jay Saussey (Dead Amazon in AITST, Village Girl in Hercules and the Lost Kingdom, Oena in And Fancy Free and Greece Is Burning).

    On the 1992 USA / NZ film "Absent Without Leave Mark" Mark worked with Margaret Blay (who played the rather bad witness in LUATD).

    Mark was also one of the main voice actors for the *very* odd 1989 NZ puppet film "Meet the Feebles", for which Stuart Devenie (Asterius the Magistrate in And Fancy Free, Count Von Verminhaven in Greece Is Burning, and Kernunnos in Resurrection and Render Unto Caesar) also provided voices, and on which George Port, who played the first Critic in The Play's The Thing, worked as a puppeteer... "Meet The Feebles" is worth checking out - but be warned, it is *not* a children's film!

    Mark also worked on the 1984 NZ film "Constance", which starred Donogh Rees (Frigga in Norse by Norsevest and Somewhere Over Rainbow Bridge, the voice of Mnemosyne in Let There Be Light) in the eponymous role, and also featured Yvonne Lawley (Gryphia in Key To The Kingdom, Woman in Hercules And The Circle of Fire, Old Woman in Market in Hercules In The Underworld, Alyssa in Beanstalks and Bad Eggs, the Norn in Norse by Norsevest and Somewhere Over Rainbow Bridge) and William Kircher (the Prison Overseer in LUATD).

    Mark can be seen operating a machine gun in the 1983 feature "Nate and Hayes", also known as "Savage Island". Also seen in this movie, a war film set in the Pacific islands, are Grant Tilly (Toth in The Lady and the Dragon) and Bruce Allpress. Bruce has appeared as Enos in Unchained Heart, an Old Man in The Road to Calydon, Septus in Cast A Giant Shadow, Skouros in Not Fade Away, Phidias in War Wounds, and Stouras in Redemption... and he's also in more NZ made films than pretty much any actor - a very busy man.

    Another NZ film in which Mark Hadlow can be seen is 1982's "The Scarecrow". Bruce Allpress is in this one too. And so are Desmond Kelly (Elkton in Dreamworker), Sarah Smuts Kennedy (see above), Yvonne Lawley (see above) and Norman Forsey (King Lias in W.P and W.P.T1, Casca in BTDT, Megas the old prisoner in Key To The Kingdom, Tiresias in The Road to Calydon, The Festival of Dionysus and The Outcast). It's a thriller, aimed at younger viewers.

    Mark can also be seen the 1982 Sci-Fi adventure "Warlords of the 21st Century", released in the USA as "Battletruck". And he was featured in the 1980 crime drama "Beyond Reasonable Doubt", which starred David Hemmings, and featured the Xenaverse actors Grant Tilly (see above), Ian Watkin (the Inn Keeper in Eye Of The Beholder, King Quallas in End Of The Beginning, the Butcher in Porkules), Bruce Allpress (again..), Laurie Dee (the Tavern Keeper in LUATD, Machus in Reign of Terror), and Bernard Moody (Drunk in ACAOTPB, Old Drunk in The Festival of Dionysus, Old Man in What's in A Name, Proprietor in Cast A Giant Shadow, Messenger in Monster Child In The Promised Land, and Drunk [again] in Armageddon Now Part 1).

    Alison Wall who played Minya, of course created this role in A Day In The Life, and reprised it previously in The Quill Is Mightier. I wasn't able to find out much else about her, except that she provided the voices for Tethys and Mnemosyne in "Hercules and Xena - The Animated Movie: The Battle for Mount Olympus".

    Peter Muller who played the haughty centaur Dustinus Hoofmanus, was an interesting choice for this role, since his main previous claim to fame in the Xenaverse comes from playing one of the most famous centaurs of them all, Deric, whose wife Lyla was played by Lucy Lawless in the HTLJ eps As Darkness Falls and The Outcast. Peter also reappeared as Deric in The Wedding of Alcmene. His only other role in the Xenaverse was as Gregor, the fallen soldier, in the HTLJ ep Ares.

    The only other credit I found for Peter was a NZ TV series called "City Life", in which he appeared together with Katrina Browne, Lisa Chappell and Donogh Rees (for all of whose Xenaverse roles, see above), and Charles Mesure (Mercer in The Price, Darnelle in TDHD and Johnny Pinto in Yes Virginia There is A Hercules).

    The stage-struck warlord Therax the Terrible was played by Stephen Hall. Stephen first appeared on XWP as Draco's ill-fated lieutenant Hector in SOTP. When next we saw him he was playing the lugubrious warlord Thelonius (always accompanied by his henchman Munk) in TQIM. And we last saw him as the Captain in Tsunami. He's also encountered Hercules a few times, playing Minion #2 in Hercules In The Underworld, the Lead Soldier in The Vanishing Dead, and Purces in The Fire Down Below.

    Stephen also has quite a few film credits. He played Ivan's mate in the 1996 NZ film "Broken English", which can now be found on video shelves. This film also featured Marton Csokas (Borias, Khrafstar), Gilbert Goldie (the Town Elder in LUATD, Nevus in Hercules And The Lost Kingdom) and Amanda Rees (Mina in The Sword of Veracity, Marpessa in We'll Always Have Cyprus).

    Another NZ film worth checking out, if you haven't already seen it, is 1994's "Once Were Warriors" in which Stephen plays the Prosecuting Officer. Taungaroa Emile (Ximenos in Ares, Linxus in Sky High), George Henare (Hidsim in LM, Zarathustra in Let There Be Light and Redemption) and Ian Mune (Menas Maxius in Gladiator, King Sidon in The Apple) also appear in this feature.

    Stephen also had a (fairly small) role in Jane Campion's acclaimed 1993 film "The Piano". Ian Mune is in this one too, as is the (nearly) ubiquitous Bruce Allpress, and it also features Gordon Hatfield (the Lieutenant in Unchained Heart, Seerus in Death in Chains, Rufinus in The Furies, Minion #1 in Hercules In The Underworld, Temple Guard in The Wrong Path, Freedom Fighter in Not Fade Away), Tamati Rice (Garel in The Price, Vercinix in When in Rome), Jon Brazier (Walsim in TDHD, Tarsis in VA, Mercenary #2 in The Vanishing Dead, Jakar in The Outcast, Slave Trader in The Fire Down Below, Trinculos in A Star to Guide Them) and Stephen Papps (Pylendor in Unchained Heart, Seer in OOW, Teles in The Road to Calydon, Trilos in Protean Challenge, The Darkness in Norse by Norsevest and Somewhere Over Rainbow Bridge).

    Stephen appears as a French Naval Officer in a film that should be known to all Xenites - 1992's "The Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior". This film, of course, features Lucy Lawless in a pre-Xena role, and many others who later brought to life inhabitants of the Xenaverse can be seen in it: Stig Eldred (Titus in King Con, Minion Leader in Hercules In The Underworld, Belus in The March to Freedom, Maceus in Cast A Giant Shadow), Alison Bruce (Melosa in H&H, Postera in Gladiator), Mark Ferguson (Krykus in H&H and RN, Dagnine in OOW and PI, John Smythe in TXS, Prometheus in Hercules And The Circle of Fire, Hades in Hercules In The Underworld, Craesus in As Darkness Falls), Nigel Harbrow (Koulos in TBW, Basculis in LM, Patrol Centurion in AGD, Turkos in Gladiator), Donogh Rees (Frigga in Norse by Norsevest and Somewhere Over Rainbow Bridge, the voice of Mnemosyne in Let There Be Light), Simon Prast (Nemos in COH, First Soldier in What's in A Name, Patronius in The Wedding of Alcmene), and (naturally) Bruce Allpress.

    Stephen Hall played a Police Constable in the 1990 NZ feature "The Grasscutter", in which Jon Brazier (see above) appeared as his sergeant, and Joel Tobeck (King Beraeus in Promises, Strife in Encounter, When A Man Loves A Woman, Judgement Day, End Of The Beginning and Armageddon Now, Strife and David Scott Pollison in Yes Virginia There is A Hercules) played a victim. Peter Vere-Jones (King Silvas in ASC, Zeus in Judgement Day) was also in this film.

    Therax's colleague and rival, Kaelus the Conqueror should probably have looked familiar to Xenites too... he was played by William Davis, who we last saw as the evil deputy-warlord Malik in Death Mask. William also player Skirner in the HTLJ ep Atlantis.

    And the third of the trio of warlords in this ep, Cleon, was played by Mark Nua. I thought Mark looked *very* familiar... but I guess it must be from HTLJ, since he hasn't appeared on XWP before, at least not in a credited role. On HTLJ he has been seen several times in meaty roles, playing Skoros in Gladiator, the Ogre in The Vanishing Dead, a Wrestler in The Fire Down Below, Otus in Once A Hero, and the would-be hero Mong in Hercules On Trial.

    John McKee was credited as Rivus (I believe... the character name spellings are especially hard to read in the end credits). He was the other male actor - the one who said "Well... I am" when Gab said "We aren't doing this for the money". John is perhaps best known as the unprepossessingly named Scaberus from TQIM, where he spent the ep chasing after his kinsman's sword. He also played Lord Menos, the head of one of the two rival houses, in Been There Done That. On the Herc side John has been seen as Gredor in Centaur Mentor Journey, and as "Fake Eryx the Boxer" Hercules In The Underworld.

    In addition to noting his role in Hercules In The Underworld, the Internet Movie Database has him credited with roles in many major movies, including the original Angels In The Outfield (1951) and the original Cape Fear (1962)... but even though they include Hercules In The Underworld, I think they must have got him confused with someone else, since I can't see that he could possibly have been playing a Recording Man in 1949 and a Pilot, 2nd Bruiser and a Photographer in 1950 - unless he has some "Portrait of Dorian Grey" deal going...

    The First Critic was played by George Port. George has never acted in the Xenaverse before, at least not in a speaking role.

    He played an Orderly in the 1996 movie "The Frighteners", which starred Michael J. Fox. This movie also featured Stuart Devenie (Asterius the Magistrate in And Fancy Free, Count Von Verminhaven in Greece Is Burning, and Kernunnos in Resurrection Render Unto Caesar) as the Museum Curator, and Danny Lineham (Drinker #2 in The Warrior Princess, Grathios in The Reckoning, Lycus in The Sword of Veracity, Johe in Prodigal Sister, and the School Teacher in Let There Be Light).

    George was also in the 1992 NZ offbeat horror movie "Braindead", also known as "Dead Alive". Stuart Devenie (see above) was in this one too, and Chris Ryan (Virgilius in TLW, Zantar/Evil Stepmother in ITSF) appeared in it as a "Featured Party Zombie".

    Besides these acting credits, George also worked as a digital effects operator on "Heavenly Creatures" (discussed under Jennifer Ward-Lealand, above), and as a puppeteer on "Meet the Feebles" (discussed under Mark Hadlow, above).

    Paulina, the play Xena, was played by Polly Baigent. Polly has been previously credited as a "Doppelganger" in Dreamworker and "LL Body Double" in Warrior...Priestess...Tramp. Although these are her only acting credits, I believe she is one of Lucy's regular doubles...

    Mary Henderson was credited as "Woman #2"... I *think* she was one of the three "singing wood-nymphs", but I'm not entirely sure. She was previously credited for the role of Kundin in the HTLJ ep The Fire Down Below.

    The rest of the cast, Tammy Barker as the speaking Gabrielle look-alike, Eduardo de Campos as Sophocles, Denis Hoskins as the Second Critic, Rietta Austin as Woman #1, and Dee Wernham as Woman #3, were all receiving their first credits in the Xenaverse, and I couldn't find out anything about their other work.

    The ep was written by Ashley Gable and Thomas A. Swyden, who are an entirely new writing team to the Xenaverse, and about whom I could find out nothing.

    The director of the ep was Christopher Graves. He has never directed an XWP ep before, but he has directed three HTLJ eps, all comedies: Two Men And A Baby, Yes Virginia There is A Hercules, and Porkules.


    03-20-00. From Kim. Was just reading the latest on this episode, and found it odd that no one had mentioned the obvious rip-off (like BTDT and Groundhog Day) of 1968's "The Producers". It stars Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder as the "Zera n' Sidekick" characters who pull the exact same scam, and it won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay that year. Those who liked this Xena ep just might want to check out The Producers.

    04-14-99. From Kym. The "Buffus the Bacchae Slayer" reference in PLAY was made because the writers started out on "Buffy."

    04-14-99. From Xorys. A couple of additional oddments about The Play's The Thing. These are actually based on comments from someone connected with the making of the episode... but the comments were off the record and not for attribution - so you'll have to just take them as you find them.

  • This Xena-lite ep was mostly made whilst Lucy was attending the NATPE convention in Las Vegas (remember Regis & Kathy Lee), so she was only available for a day or two of filming on it.

  • The name of the theatre town, Piraeus, was apparently chosen without any knowledge that it was the main port of ancient Athens - they just picked a place on the outskirts of Athens because TPTB wanted it to be like a theatre suburb of a major city, close to Athens without being Athens itself.

  • OTOH the place where Xena spent most of the ep 'helping the Prince' was Archon, which was a gratuitous and intentional Star Trek reference, as was the name of the warlord Kaelus the Conqueror, named after Kahless, the first Klingon Emperor. Now I'm not a Trekkie - someone tell me what Archon was...?

  • The Kahless reference can also be found in another product of the writing team, Ashley Gable and Thomas A. Swyden, the Buffy The Vampire Slayer ep "I, Robot... You, Jane", in which the demon in the Internet was foiled by forming the "Circle of Kayless"!

  • Xena's whole "Well when I say 'Don't mention it'..." schtick was not in the original script... it got worked up somehow during the development and filming...

  • Remember the "You're *much* funnier than Euripides" line? Well originally there were plans for Euripides (previously seen in Athens City Academy Of The Performing Bards) to actually appear in this ep... but they didn't pan out.

  • Gabby's line "Piraeus is the great Appian Way" was definitely a reference to Broadway, the Great White Way. Originally it was actually the "Great White Appian Way", but it got shortened...

  • In the original script it was fairly clear that when Zera said she found Gabby's precious scroll in the "little girls room" it was actually fulfilling the function we have previously come to associate with scrolls in that setting...

  • Humongous wasn't a reference to any particular character, in X:WP or elsewhere - they just thought it would be funny because it means huge and it sounds sort of like a Roman name...

  • The play title "A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Acropolis" was, of course, a reference to "A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum". This was again something of an in joke, since "A Funny Thing..." was created by Larry Gelbart (who was also behind the M*A*S*H TV show), and the writers of The Play's The Thing were working for Larry Gelbart last year, doing stuff for the Showtime cable network.

  • Everyone caught the Dustinus Hoofmanus reference I guess. What we didn't get was the name of the other male actor (played by John McKee, previously Scaberus and Lord Menos). This character was credited just as Rivus, but apparently his full intended name was Keanu Rivus... a real pity that one didn't actually make it into the broadcast.

  • Several people have noted that this ep showed a lot of familiarity with fan things... apparently the writers, Ashley Gable and Tom Swyden, could definitely be considered fans of the show, and are indeed familiar with fan culture (well it showed, didn't it?)

  • My memory didn't fail me when I failed to identify when "Xena defeated Cleon twice and humiliated him"... they just made him up, using the real ancient Greek name Cleon (there's a Cleon in Aristophanes' play "The Knights", and there was also a historical Cleon who led a faction opposed to Pericles in the Peloponnesian war).

  • I mentioned "Waiting For Guffman" and Kenneth Branagh's "A Midwinter's Tale" as movies relevant as background to this ep. Apparently those putting the ep together were well aware of these, and bore them in mind... and also the Woody Allen film "Bullets Over Broadway" (an obvious parallel, with gangsters financing a Broadway show), and the *excellent* theatrical farce *about* people trying to put on a farce, "Noises Off" (a movie that just makes me laugh *so* much... I own a copy of it).

  • I had complained (slightly) that I didn't really understand why Cleon was wandering around backstage hitting people over the head, since his motivation was supposed to be something to do with learning Xena's secrets... Apparently he was meant to have overheard Gabrielle saying she was changing the play back to her original vision about a message of peace, and realised he wasn't likely to find out about Xena's battle tactics from it... but somehow this got lost in the edit, or whatever.

  • Apart from the obvious issue of the line "There's the opening of 'Buffus, the Bacchae Slayer' across the street..." returning the compliment, since Xena was mentioned on Buffy last year, there's a more pointed in-joke there, since the writers of this ep, Gable and Swyden, used to write for Buffy. (Now who wrote the Buffy ep that mentioned Xena...?)
  • 03-24-99. From Dark12. I was just looking through my copy of Hamlet for my english class and I spotted that line. At the end of Act 2, Hamlet has this big ol' sololiloquy and the last two lines go:

    "More relative than this:--the play's the thing
    Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king."

    This is the part in Hamlet where Hamlet decides to arrange a play called "The Murder of Gonzago" to be shown at the castle and for the new king, Claudius (his father's brother), to see. Hamlet suspects that Claudius murdered his father, Hamlet the First, who was king at the time. The play is doctored a bit by Hamlet to show the circumstances of his father's death, and Hamlet will watch for Claudius' reaction to it to ascertain whether or not Claudius is guilty.

    Don't know whether or not this has anything to do with the upcoming ep, but just throwing in my quarter-dinars worth.


    Click here to read a transcript of THE PLAYS THE THING .


    Although no great literary works of art were harmed or plagiarised, a few thespians stole some scenes during the production of this motion picture.

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