Compleat Female Stage Beauty
By Jeffrey Hatcher
Directed by Cara E. Peterson
In 1661 the most famous portrayer of female roles on the London stage was a performer named Kynaston. Like every other player permitted to enact such roles, Kynaston was a man. A celebrity artist shining bright at the crest of the Restoration, Ned or Mr. K, as he’s called, is applauded onstage and off for his interpretations of Shakespeare’s tragic ladies: Ophelia, Cleopatra, especially his Desdemona and his famous “death scene.” He’s the toast of the town and the very secret “mistress” of the powerful Duke of Buckingham.
But when an unknown named Margaret Hughes plays Desdemona one night at an illegal theater, instead of stopping the show, the ever-game King Charles II changes the law to allow women to act. By the stroke of a pen, Kynaston’s world is turned upside-down. He loses his cachet, his livelihood, his lover and his sense of self. And while the king’s own courtesan, Nell Gwynn, and Kynaston’s former dresser, Maria, become stars, his own light disappears—until fate and his desire for revenge give him a chance to take the stage again.
Produced by Mercury Players at the Bartell Theatre’s Drury Stage, 113 E. Mifflin St., Madison, Wisconsin
Performances: April 11 - 26, 2008
Performance Times: Thurs.-Sat., 8 pm; Sundays, 2 pm.
Ticket Prices: $15