Titillating, entertaining, with a touch of stage history

(04-18-2013)

Adams State presents Compleat Female Stage Beauty

A review by Linda Relyea

edward kynaston and mrs. hughes

Period piece or not, watching the Compleat Female Stage Beauty is not that different from an episode of Glee, without the musical numbers. The comedy, directed by Dr. Paul Newman, and produced by the Adams State University Theatre Department, delighted me. Smart, sexy, lavish costuming, set design, lighting…this play has it all, along with an entertaining story acted with comedic timing and believability

I’ve always enjoyed Dr. Newman’s comedies; he has a knack of waiting for the right cast to produce the best results. Compleat Female Stage Beauty isn’t a slap-stick, case of mistaken identity and door slamming fun, there is more depth and character development in this witty tale.

The story could take place in any time or place where the young and talented gather and form cliques and struggle for identity and acceptance – even a fictional high school like the set of Glee. Please don’t turn up your nose if you are not a fan of the Fox television sitcom because first, this is a live performance – which is always better than canned productions, and second it contains true-life characters from the 1660s. Whether it happened three-hundred and fifty years ago in England or three months ago in Hollywood – performers and patrons interactions make for interesting fodder.

The time period was pivotal in the history of English theatre. Recently reinstated on the throne, having been in exile since the beheading of his father, King Charles II (Eric Thurston) decrees that female characters will be played by women. Now Edward Kynaston, aptly played by John Hauser, finds himself, quite suddenly, without employment, friends, and a sense of self.

At the peak of his acting career, playing female parts, Kynaston asserts his self-confidence, talents, and superiority. He flings insults and biting critiques carelessly, although accurately, pissing off the popular and rich cliques. They seek unrestrained, unabashed vengeance.

Among the first to be cut by Kynaston’s sting include Margaret Hughes (Bethany Hernandez) and Nell Gwynn, played by the voluptuous Rachel Byers. Although not truly vicious at heart, their power comes from the royal men who desire them and that does not bode well for Kynaston.

Clever conversations and satirical observations punctuate the story. You sympathize with Kynaston and come to admire his original rival, Hughes, and the seemingly vacuous Gwynn.

In the second act, guided by his one true friend and admirer, Maria (Amanda Wade), and Gwynn, Kynaston’s climbs out of his self-pitying downward spiral to the realization “it is not who you are but what you do that counts.” Gwynn and Hughes also come into their own, believing in their talents and powers sans the royal court.

A couple of muted sexual scenes are included. For me, I’ll take love and a little sex any day over the violence constantly assaulting the senses from daily news sources to imaginary crime scenes in film, print and video. If you believe you might take offense or be uncomfortable, I suggest you close your eyes and silently recite your favorite poem in the brief moments of staged sex scenes, but don’t miss the play over it.

Hernandez and Hauser are always so natural and give professional performances. Mathew Wesley’s character, Samuel Pepys, meticulously documented the scenarios and actions long ago. This is my favorite performance by Wesley I have ever seen. David Boncyk does an excellent job of playing the lisping Sir Charles Sedley. Wade, Thurston, Byers, Derek Chacon (George Villiars) and Mason Miller (Thomas Betterton) support the leads with confidence and breathe life into their characters.

Compleat Female Stage Beauty show times are 7:30 p.m. April 19, 20, 26 and 27; and 2 p.m. April 28; reserve tickets by calling 719-587- 8499.