Playwright Jeffrey Hatcher researched extensively prior to writing Compleat Female Stage Beauty, bringing truth to his bawdy restoration comedy. The play debuted at the beginning of the 21st century. It depicted a momentous change in English theatre. It was in 1661 when Charles II, at the insistence of his charming mistress Nell Gwynn (Rachel Robinson), decreed that women be allowed to play women’s roles. Formerly women were not allowed on the stage. Charles II also decreed that men could not play women’s roles.
Now this was a very bad thing for a lot of men, especially stars like Edward Kynaston (Sean LaRocca). He went quickly from star to gutter. Hatcher, of course, fictionalized some events, keeping the principals’ names authentic and elevating, by a notch, Mrs. Margaret Hughes (Kelli Harless) to the first female to appear on stage.
Palomar Performing Art’s (Palomar College) production Compleat Female Stage Beauty is properly improper, ribald, and, most importantly, a window to theatre’s past. LaRocca is an excellent Kynaston, portraying a wide range of emotions as his character’s life is torn apart. Opposite him is a very charming Mrs. Hughes. Harless gives her just the right balance as she travels a road from acting obscurity to the role of Desdemona. A very nice contrast between the two.
Totally outrageous much of the time is Robinson’s Nell. She is, after all, a power behind the throne through most of the play. Nell is also a frustrated actor who, while playing at the Court of King Charles II, wants to play for the general public. Kynaston’s dresser, Maria (Alyssa Schindler), also aspires to being on the boards instead of in the wings. Schindler creates a well rounded character filled with both compassion and desire.
It is Samuel Pepys (Sean Hannify), a diarist, who acts a storyteller. Villars, Duke of Buckingham (Chad Patterson) has a carnal interest in Kynaston. Bruce Blackwell is convincingly arrogant as King Charles II.
Director Pat Larmer has an excellent, albeit large cast, that have all given very good performances. Compleat Female Stage Beauty is one of several plays that deal with the period and Shakespeare’s works. It amuses me that it takes an educational institution to tackle a play that is as risque as parts of this are. This is the second production coming out of higher education that has brought its audiences a challenging work that both educates and titillates. If I had to grade this production, it would get an A.
Compleat Female Stage Beauty runs Thursday to Sunday, through October 14, 2007. For reservations and information dial 760.744.1150 ext. 2453 or www.palomar.edu/performingarts/performances/index.htm. The Howard Brubeck Theatre is on the Palomar College campus at 1140 West Mission Road, San Marcos, CA 92069.
Sean LaRocca, Kelli Harless, Jared Spears, Chad Patterson, Sean Hannify, Alyssa Schindler, Bruce Blackwell, Rachel Robinson, Danny Hannify, Jack Ashcraft, Neha Curtiss, Starr Smith, Abbey Avecniga, Mikey Conner, Maddie McClosky, Kaitlyn Terrill, Caroline Bianchini Thayer, Nicole Lewis
AD Elise McClellan, Scene Design David H. Boyd, Lighting Design Jim Cooper, Costume/Make-up Design Ken Imaizumi, Sound Design Mark Lee, Genevieve Venegas, & Tony Bushey-Anello, Properties Design Summer Carnahan
Total Rating: Three Stars
Author: Jeffrey Hatcher
Director: Pat Larmer
Date Reviewed: October 7, 2007
Dates: Weekends, October 5 to October 14, 2007
Running Time: 148 minutes with a 15-minute intermission
Caution Guidance: Adult language and situations
Palomar Performing Arts – College theatre
Howard Brubeck Theatre
1140 West Mission Road
San Marcos, CA 92069
Box Office Phone 760.744.1150 ext. 2453