Xena: Warrior Princess

Season 4 Episode 17

The Play's The Thing

Aired Monday 8:00 PM Mar 15, 1999 on
out of 10
User Rating
71 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

Zehra, The Queen of Cons, convinces Gabrielle, who is looking to spread her message of peace, to stage a play based on some of her adventures with Xena. But Zehra has a hidden motive- intending to trick some warlords into investing in the production and then running off with the money and placing the blame with Gabrielle. However, things take an unexpected twist when Gabrielle decides to alter her play to beat a new play opening across the street by the famous playwright Sophocles.moreless

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  • Real life... or reel life?

    This episode is, simply, a tonne of fun. Certainly, it's a little left field, especially after our recent episodes, but wow, is it a good time!

    There are several niggling plot holes throughout, such as the fact that Gabrielle is dumb enough to allow an obviously untrustworthy pair to put her play on the stage, but these are unimportant in the big scheme of things.

    Joxer is extremely funny in this episode. The episode would have been absolutely lacking without him. Minya is suitable annoying, the cast of various Xena characters are very amusing, as is Dustinous the Centaur. The laughs in this episode come from a witty and snappy script, not from slapstick as we usually see in filler comedies. The warlords are actually a real highlight after viewing the play. Jennifer Ward-Lealand is good fun, but not as impressive as she was in her role as Boadicea.

    The writers played up the period of great Athenian theatre very effectively, with plenty of modern references thrown in there to keep the audience entertained.

    Not a whole lot really needs to be said about this one, it speaks for itself. It is a top class comedy filler, which is very enjoyable and leaves you with a smile on your face. However, I have to disagree with other reviewers in that I do not believe it is anywhere near one of the best episodes of the season. Although season 4 is a bit of a mish-mash season, characterised by some very poor episodes combined with several good ones, the good episodes are series' classics. We are not talking about just good quality Xena; the top episodes in this season are series defining in their brilliance, so this episode can only fairly receive a moderate score from me.moreless
  • A Xena-lite episode...

    Gabrielle goes in search of a scroll that she seems to have lost. She meets up with Joxer along the way. Zera, The Queen of Cons, convinces Gabrielle, who is looking to spread her message of peace, to base a play on her adventures with Xena, with the hidden motive of tricking some warlords into investing into and running off with the production's investment money, placing the blame with Gabrielle. However things take an expected turn when Gabrielle decides to alter her play a bit as a result of Sophecles opening a play next door.

    Not the best Xena episode ever...moreless
  • In this Xena-lite comedy, Gabrielle is offered the chance to turn one of her scrolls into a play, but doesn't realise that the investors are a couple of con artists who want the play to bomb. A silly but very enjoyable comedy episode...moreless

    While hardly one of the best examples of the series, I really enjoyed this episode. I expect there will be those who hated it, but I personally found it really good fun, and a good comedown from the intense India episodes.

    I am also a sometime actor (albeit on an amateur level) which gave me an added fondness for the episode.

    This is one of my favourite Gabrielle-based episodes, and Renée O'Connor gives a really good performance. Gabrielle is a little less bright and more easily led than normal, but as it is a comedy episode this can be excused.

    (Lucy Lawless only appears at the beginning and end of the episode, being away in America at the time of filming).

    The episode features Joxer, who has been relatively little used this season. I found him really funny in this episode – he's certainly progressed alot from the annoying goof introduced in the first season's 'Callisto'.

    Jennifer Ward-Lealand (wife of 'Hercules'' Michael Hurst) is certainly different here, as 'Queen of Cons' Zehra, to when she played Boadicea in the third season episode 'The Deliverer'.

    I really like the casting of Xena and Gabrielle from all the hopefuls, it was very funny. The final cast also includes people playing Ares and Callisto, and a ramshackle group they are too!

    Allison Wall returns as Minya. I find her funny, but in small doses. In this episode, she comes out as a "thespian" (poor Hower)!

    I find the centaur being called Dustinus Hoofmanus a bit silly, but I like the reference to 'Buffus the Bacchae Slayer' which is opening opposite.

    Gabrielle's play is really amusing, as she continually alters it to try and make it a hit.

    Another amusing scene comes at the end, when Joxer, left hanging upside-down in the dark back stage, threatens that he is going to "call his brother". In one respect, this might be referring to Jett, seen in the third season episode 'The King Of Assassins', but it might also be noted that Ted Raimi's brother is series Executive Producer Sam Raimi.

    All-in-all, I really enjoyed this episode, and find it one that you can watch over and over again. Actually, considering the lower-than-average quality of many of the episodes of late, it might even stand as one of my favourite episodes of the season.moreless
  • A conning queen, a group of warlords, a message of peace, and all the sex and violence in between!

    Gabrielle returns to Athens for her indian scroll and finds herself in enthralled by the words of 2 con-men. She uses it as an oppertuinity to spread the message of peace she learned in "The Way" to the masses. However Sophocles up's the anty so gabrielle pumps her play full of sex and violence! I found this episode to be quite entertaining! The always funny, Alison Wall returns as Minya to stir things up, while the whole episode is pumped with references including Dustin Hophmanus (Dustin Hoffman) and Buffis The Bachaii slayer (Buffy The Vampire Slayer). This was one of the few funny comedies of the series and I'll always remember it. It also once again sends the message that Xena always wins!moreless
  • Who came up with the title, LOL!!!

    The Play's The Thing-The Queen of Cons, Zera, convinces Gabrielle to base a play on her adventures with Xena, with the hidden motive of running off with the production's investment money. This is a mildly funny episode with Xena going off on a mission, when Gabrielle's doing a play about their adventures. This episode brings in Minya and Joxer, who both are equal great comedic actors. Some scenes are funny, some are just drag for ages. The funnier scenes are with Gabrielle and the Xena actor playing with the blood effects, and Minya confessing to being a quote on quote "Thespian", LOL!! If you don't get the joke, you have to watch the episode to find out. I did like the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" reference, as well. But all in all, some funny moments in a pretty dull episode!!moreless
Peter Muller

Peter Muller

Dustinus Hoofmanus

Guest Star

Polly Baigent

Polly Baigent


Guest Star

Eduardo de Campos

Eduardo de Campos


Guest Star

Ted Raimi

Ted Raimi


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (2)

  • QUOTES (12)

    • Joxer: Well, well, well, well. Aren't you all ashamed of yourselves? Gabrielle put her heart and soul into this play and as a producer I'm ashamed for all of you. But as a producer, I have a few little changes to make.

    • Xena: Go on, make us both happy.
      Gabrielle: Thank you.
      Xena: Don't mention it.
      Gabrielle: OK. (Gabrielle walks away)
      Xena: Well, when I say 'Don't mention it', I mean, you could mention it. It's just a figure of speech. Don't have to take it literally. Wouldn't kill you to maybe look back or something.

    • Minya: Gabrielle, I wanted to thank you. I wouldn't have met Paulina if it wasn't for you. In fact, the two of you have made me realize something deep down about myself I guess I always knew but didn't dare admit. Yes, I'm a -- thespian. (runs off with Paulina)
      Gabrielle: That is what she said, right? Deep down she's a thespian?
      Xena: Yeah, yeah, that's what she said. Why, what did you think she said?

    • Gabrielle: You're hired. I don't care what I have to do. You'll be in the script, I promise.
      Dustinus Hoofmanus: Thank you. Oh, by the way -- I do not play quadrupeds. Make sure the role reflects that.
      Gabrielle: What?
      Dustinus Hoofmanus: I do not play four-legged creatures.
      Gabrielle: But you're a centaur.
      Dustinus Hoofmanus: I am an actor! I refuse to limit myself.

    • Song: Listen, now, and you will hear the action packed tale of Xena. Xena! Xena! Xena, Warrior Princess. Wooooooh!

    • Gabrielle: We're gonna need more blood. I want more skin. I want action. I want weapons. I want battlefields with beaten, bloodied bodies. We're gonna take this little flower and we're gonna cram it down their throats for their own good.

    • Minya: What, this bag of bones? She couldn't shoe a mule, let alone bust heads!
      Paulia: I can too shoo a mule! Shoo!

    • Minya: Ay yi yi yi yi yi! Hee-yah! Ay-yah! Never fear, Xena is here!

    • Actress:(auditioning for the part of Gabrielle) But Xena, you followed the violent approach in the past, and what has come of it but more violence?!
      Gabrielle: Thank you. Next!

    • Joxer: Hi, Gabrielle, wow! Uh, your hair. Did that hurt? Uh, what's that you're wearing?
      Gabrielle: Sari.
      Joxer: Don't apologize. It looks good.

    • Xena: Well, peace might be boring, but it's all anybody really wants.

    • Gabrielle: Xena, it was one of my favorite scrolls, a new one charting our history through the prism of time, a--
      Xena: More intimate examination of our relationship and on and on.

  • NOTES (5)

    • Peter Muller, who plays Dustinus Hoofmanus, got to be pretty used to playing a Centaur. He played Deric on Hercules, Dustinus, and an unnamed Centaur in the teaser of the sixth season episode "Last of the Centaurs". While playing Deric he was also married to a character played by Lucy Lawless, Lyla.

    • When Joxer is hanging upside-down at the end of the episode, he shouts out that he's going to tell his brother (Jett, most likely). As he says this, the executive producer credits (with Sam Raimi, Ted's brother) come up.

    • Polly Baigent, who plays Xena in Gabrielle's play, was one of Lucy's body doubles on the show. And Tammy Barker, the girl who auditions for the part of Gabrielle, was one of Renee's body doubles.

    • Jennifer Ward-Lealand (who's married to actor Michael Hurst, of Hercules fame) has been previously seen on XWP as Boadicea in "The Deliverer". She also appeared in the HTLJ ep "All That Glitters" as Voluptua.

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


    • A number of plays are advertised at the beginning of the episode. The signs are translated to read:
      Direct from Rome!
      Original Cast!
      30th Smash Week!
      "Oh, Zeus"
      A Divine Comedy.
      Laugh Or Be Smitten!
      "Athens Academy Theater" may refer to the first season episode "Athens City Academy of the Performing Bards". The Women of Trachis is an actual play by Sophocles; its subject is the death of Heracles (Hercules) and contains no scenes of sex or violence, let alone hordes of leggy chorines -- which themselves are an allusion to the Ziegfeld Follies, its direct competitors, the Scandals and the Vanities, and the Rockettes of Radio City Music Hall.
      "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Acropolis" refers to A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962), a musical by Stephen Sondheim, Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart. It was later made into a movie (1966); both versions starred Zero Mostel (c.f. "Zehra"). The story is set in Rome and is based on the bawdy comedies of the Roman playwright Plautus.
      "Oh, Zeus!" refers to Oh, God!, a 1977 movie starring George Burns in the title role. The "Apollo" Theater in the episode refers to the famous Apollo in Harlem (New York City).
      Gabrielle complains about sex and violence in the theater, a reference to such complaints made about television. Greek comedies and satyr plays were extremely bawdy and contained many sexual references and early bathroom "humor." Actors in satyr plays are depicted as wearing large phalluses. Violence usually occurred off stage, especially in the tragedies. Battle scenes and murders were never depicted, only described.

    • The title of the episode is taken from Hamlet: "...the play's the thing/Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king." Both this episode and Hamlet include a play within the play, written by one of the principals (Gabrielle and Hamlet, respectively). Cleon refers to the historical Cleon (c.475-422), the Athenian demagogue who succeeded his enemy Pericles during the Peloponnesian War. He defeated the Spartans at Sphacteria in 425 but was killed in battle against them at Amphipolis. He was mercilessly lampooned twice by Aristophanes (The Knights survives in print) and comes off badly in Thucydides's history. Dustinus Hoofmanus is a play on Dustin Hoffman, of course. Rivus is a play on Keanu Reeves. Kaelus refers to Kahless the Conqueror, the most famous Klingon warlord in Star Trek. Paulina is a play on Polly Baigent's given name.

    • Gabrielle: "Springtime for Warlords" (possible title of the play); when she rewrites it for more violence, the play is temporarily renamed "Faster Chakram! Kill! Kill! Kill!", a reference to the 1965 movie Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! The plot of this episode is taken from the 1968 Mel Brooks movie The Producers, in which the title characters produce a supposed flop called "Springtime for Hitler". Zehra, the villainess of the piece, is named for Zero Mostel, who starred in the original movie. The idea of warlords financing the production comes from the Woody Allen movie Bullets Over Broadway, in which gangsters are the "angels."

    • Critic: There's the opening of Buffus the Bacchai Slayer across the street.

      Buffy the Vampire Slayer is an American show which is famously known throughout the world. The main character called Buffy, slays vampires and vanquishes other worldy demons. Like Xena they are both warriors.

    • Gabrielle: Piraeus is the great Appian Way.

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

      Piraeus is actually the port of Athens, so it could be supposed that these are actually "off-Athens" ("off-Broadway") plays. There are no references in the episode to the port.

      The Appian Way (Via Appia) is the most famous of all Roman roads, and parts are still in use. It ran from Rome to Brindisi.

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