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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Compleat FemaleStage Beauty
Hatcher, who also adapted the 2004 screenplay which starred Billy Crudup and Clare Danes, uses the historical reversal to explore gender roles. Ned Kynaston (Michael Traymor), London's leading lady, declares there's no art for him in playing a man. Even a "Trousers" part where he plays a woman playing a man is enriched by the layer of femininity. Hatcher also takes advantage of this play about actors to present a wonderful acting lesson when Ned teaches Mrs. Hughes (Tracie Lockwood), now cast in his signature role of "Desdemona" how not to imitate him but to act her own truth.
Traynor doesn't make a beautiful woman but he does make a sexy and provocative one. The exaggerated acting gestures of the period give the play a campy air but shouldn't be interpreted as effeminate. They were used by both sexes who had to project emotion without mikes. Traynor is mesmerizingly poignant in Act II when he sinks to the depths of London's performing world scrabbling for a living.
The movie is more romantic than the play, combining the characters of Mrs. Hughes and Ned's dresser Maria (Rochelle Greenwood). It also spends more time bringing out Ned's inner man.
The supporting cast under the lively baton of John Perrin Flynn is excellent. It's headed by Jaxson Duff Gwillim as a suavely cross-dressing and individualistic Charles II; Rachel Avery as a scheming delicious Nell Gwynn; Steve Cell as a languid sexually confused Villiars, Duke of Buckingham; deadly and voluptuous Tracie Lockwood as Margaret Hughes; Andrew Block prickling with sophisticated curiosity as Samuel Pepys; and Rick D. Wasserman as shrewd theatre-owner Thomas Betterton.
Stephanie Kerley Schwartz designed the elaborate period costumes and multii-layered set, astutely shaded by Dan Weingarten's lighting design. Actress/singer Penny Orloff opens the show with exquisite 17th-century madrigals that set the tone for the intuitive taste and high standards of this new group om its debut production.
For a review of the play's Philadelphia premiere go here