Plays about plays, acting, and the stage are as old and venerable as Shakespeare himself. The continue to be regularly written and produced in contemporary theater, one recent example being Compleat Female Stage Beauty by playwright Jeffrey Hatcher.
Originally written and produced in 2000, and adapted into the 2004 film Stage Beauty, it tells a story about the waning days of the boy players in English theater, when women were finally allowed to act openly on stage by the returning Stuart King Charles II. This bawdy comedy that captures the spirit of Restoration theater is being produced this month by Mercury Players Theatre.
Directed by Cara E. Peterson, the production features a cast of nearly two dozen actors that have been busy in rehearsal for many weeks, getting ready for its upcoming two week run.
Here's a synopsis of Compleat Female Stage Beauty from Mercury:
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.
Local playwright and filmmaker Rob Matsushita has assembled a trailer for Compleat Female Stage Beauty, set to "Tick Tick Boom" by The Hives and replete with scenes in rehearsal.
Compleat Female Stage Beauty opens on the Drury Stage at the Bartell Theatre on Friday, April 11 and runs through Saturday, April 26, which performances scheduled for 8 p.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays and a 2 p.m. matinee on Sundays. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the theater's box office, or online, with general admission running $15. The show runs for about two hours with a 15 minute intermission.