Photo by Brittany Diliberto, Bee Two Sweet Photography.
Making its East Coast debut at the Folger Shakespeare Theatre is Nell Gwynn, the comedy by Olivier Award-winning British playwright Jessica Swale. The play centers around the title character, played by Alison Luff making her DC theater debut, a fiery and sassy orange seller who joins the King’s Company as an actor–an anomaly at the time when men played all roles. Nell Gwynn was one of the first women to act on English stages. Her performances impress the audiences for which she performs, and, more importantly, King Charles II, played by R.J. Foster.
As King Charles II becomes smitten with Nell and her feistiness, her lovable team of colleagues weigh in on her life, providing both advice and criticism about her involvement. Nancy, played by Catherine Flye, serves as Nell’s personal dresser and confidante. Charles Hart (Quinn Franzen) and John Dryden (Michael Glenn), the King’s Company’s leading actor and resident playwright, join Company manager Thomas Killigrew (Nigel Gore) to round out Nell’s on-stage work family.
A hilarious story element of the play involves Edward Kynaston (played by Christopher Dinolfo), a male actor who is used to playing female characters. A particularly enjoyable part of the play involves Christopher question Nell’s ability to portray female characters, including questions like, “Where did you go to fan school?” while dressed in a full geisha ensemble.
Touching on timely topics like feminism and political power, Nell Gwynn focuses on the historical and current themes of women against the backdrop of famous and powerful men and male-dominated institutions.
“The rags-to-riches story of Nell Gwynn is an important and timely one” says director Robert Richmond. “Her tenacity, wit, and honesty changed the theatrical landscape forever and won her a place in history. The production at the Folger aims to explore the core of her humanity along with captivating the audience with a heartfelt and entertaining story.”
The play has something to offer anyone, and with an entertaining score composed by Kim Sherman, musically-inclined viewers will enjoy the talented singing found throughout the performance. Nell Gwynn is on stage at Folger Theatre through March 10, 2019. Tickets are $42-$85. Discounted preview performances (starting at $27) and special rates for patrons under 30, students, seniors, members and family of the military, educators, and groups may be purchased through the Folger Theatre Box Office at (202) 544-7077 or online at http://www.folger.edu/theatre.