BWW Review: Broads' Word Ensemble's THE LADY WAS A GENTLEMAN Comically Examines Love, Identity, Race, and Gender
During the 2015 Hollywood Fringe Festival, I discovered the all-female theatre troupe Broads' Word Ensemble when my love of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shew and being a fan of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy led me to the group's first production, Fifty Shades of Shrew. After being exquisitely entertained by the show, I vowed to follow the group in their future endeavors, whether at Fringe or not. So when I heard about their current production of The Lady Was a Gentleman, a screwball comedy of seduction, mistaken identity, and all the fun you can get away with when you're famous, I was more than ready to see what this inspirational group of women were presenting as a pure theatrical confection. And delicious it was!
The Lady Was a Gentleman, written by Barbara Kahn, is an examination of love, identity, race, and gender that centers on several historical figures in lesbian lore, especially Charlotte Cushman who was considered the greatest actress in America during the mid-19th century. Ms. Cushman was an internationally acclaimed actor who played both male and female dramatic roles, both on the stage and in real life. As played by Dawn Alden, who so brilliantly beguiled as Petruchio in Fifty Shades of Shrew, Charlotte is behaving very badly after leaving her wife behind and going out on yet another stateside farewell tour with her personal assistant, Sallie Mercer (Sonja Inge), a free black woman ahead of her time. As Charlotte's ever-expanding entourage of adoring younger women float in and out of her life, Sallie remains her bedrock - in more ways than one!Besides Inge, another newcomer to the ensemble is the lovely Chantal Thuy as the distraught French mail-order bride, Marie, betrothed to Jane Partridge, played by Lacy Altwine at her scene-stealing best, dressed to the hilt in leather fringe as a Wild Bill Hickock lookalike and later in a massive hoop skirt, hilariously worn totally out-of-character with her raging testosterone. These two are a riot as one of the most mismatched couples ever to grace the stage! Luckily Thuy is French-Canadian; allowing her French accent to be pitch-perfect and her performance totally believable and enchanting as the flirtatious Frenchwoman looking for the best possible match to offer her the type of lifestyle she has always dreamed for herself. So of course, she falls for Charlotte, who in turn does her best to plead Jane's case. Such a love triangle may not even exist on any current soap operas, but these talented actresses make it all the more believable and incredibly funny!
Other admirers of the great Charlotte Cushing include Deidre Ryan (Tara Donovan, the Ensemble's Executive Director and totally submissive Bianca in Fifty Shades of Shrew), the conflicted ingenue actress playing Juliet to Charlotte's Romeo. and diehard fan Emma Crow (Maikiko James), who will do just about anything to deliver her handwritten missive of love to Charlotte.Their stories about women who fall in lust as often as they fall in love are timeless in their appeal, be the object of their affection either male or female. And these talented women pull off the comedy to perfection, their antics sure to leave you laughing out loud and often!
The Lady Was a Gentleman's Director Kate Motzenbacker says, "Art about queer women's history tends to focus on two subjects: unadulterated misery or finding true love despite the odds. What a treat to work on this light, laugh-out-loud comedy about a well-meaning lothario!" Written by Barbara Kahn, a playwright known for the dramatization of the forgotten stories of women, particularly lesbians, this play definitely allows the lesbian community the opportunity to see their history onstage, showing audiences in general the richness of lesbian life both past and present.Serving as producers are Broads' Word Ensemble's Executive Director Tara Donovan and Artistic Director Danielle Ozymandias, who also serves as the production's costume designer. The Broads' producing team also includes Sylvia Loehndorf, Lacy Altwine, and Dana DeRuyck, with Lighting Design by Stacey Abrams and Sound Design from Suze Campagna.
The West Coast Premiere of The Lady Was a Gentleman tickets are on sale through Brown Paper Tickets. Performances run April 8 through 29, 2017 on Friday and Saturday nights at 8pm at the Dorie Theatre (Complex Stages) in Hollywood. For more information please visit, www.BroadsWordEnsemble.com
Photos by Alex Moy