Act a Lady

October 13th, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

Convergence-continuum.Act A Lady, by playwright Jordan Harrison, gets off to a fast start when Miles (Clyde Simon), a small time grocer or dry-goods man, tells–half pleads with–his accordion-playing wife, (Lucy Bredeson-Smith), that he and two other men, True (Wes Shofner) and Casper (Stuart Hoffman), from the local Elks club want to put on a play that will require their wearing ‘fancy-type women-type clothes.’ But despite the fact that it’s 1927, in Wattleburg, Minnesota, the play is for a good cause, Christmas for the kiddies, and the women-folk seem to be of a mind to allow it to proceed.

The three men get a director from Germany, a tough no-nonsense woman, Zina (Lauri Hammer), and a competent make-up artist, Lorna (Denise Astorino)–both of which they will need. For you see, the men aren’t going to put on any play for the kiddies, their going to put on an 18th-century costume drama: fancy-type women-type clothes and buckets of pasty white makeup: we’re talking whalebone and hoops, petticoats and gowns and enough over-the-top court-style intrigue to cause even the staunchest Elks club member to let his beer warm as his heart palpitates.

But the women folk underestimate the power of the petticoats and gowns, and soon each man is having a gender-bender of an identity crisis. Each man finds his inner woman, and soon its difficult to tell which man’s self is walking down the sidewalks of Wattlesburg. Whatsmore, even the women get in on the action led by German director and the devil-hunting accordion player–who breaks down and puts on pants.

Act A Lady was by all reports the bell of the ball at the Humana Festival in 2006 and is very ably directed by Arthur Grothe. Without a doubt, Clyde Simon, Wes Shofner, and Stuart Hoffman do a most excellent job and clearly have fun doing it. Each is smug and humble as a Wattleburg Elks man–excepting the playful flirtation of True toward Lorna and, of course, the playful flirtation of Casper toward True–and outrageously petty, willful, and conniving as an 18th-century lady.

As the murderous plot of the court intrigue revs up, the gender confusion in each character matches the intensity–culminating with each male character (in drag) having an encounter with his male self (played by the ladies in male dress). In true Jungian complexity, each male confronts his Anima and although the confrontation leaves much to be desired, the point is made that each man is undergoing a profound transition and change. But this change does not fall solely on the men, the women too (who get short-shrift in this script) find their Animus and along with it not only the necessity but the gumption to take control of things.

Ripe with plots, counter plots, sub-plots, and intrigues, Act A Lady is a meeting between Moliere and David Greenspan and is a swell way to pass an evening’s entertainment.

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