Folger Theatre Announces East Coast Premiere of NELL GWYNN Starring Alison Luff
Behold the year of the woman: 1665. Folger Theatre continues its 2018/19 season of characters who "shake the world" with Nell Gwynn, the Olivier Award-winning 2016 comedy from London about one of the first women to perform on the English stage. Written by British playwright Jessica Swale (Blue Stockings), Nell Gwynn was commissioned by Shakespeare's Globe where it premiered, followed by a celebrated 2016 run on the West End that earned an Olivier Award for Best New Comedy. Robert Richmond (Macbeth, Timon of Athens, Henry V at the Folger) will direct the East Coast premiere of the play at Folger Theatre in Washington, D.C.
Nell Gwynn tells the story of a remarkable historical figure-an orange seller from the London streets of Drury Lane who employs her charm and wits to become the darling of the Restoration theater. Nell discovers that one of her biggest fans is none other than King Charles II, who brings her to his court as a favorite mistress. Swale's sparkling portrait of the most unlikely of heroines shines a spotlight on the power of an amazing woman of her-or any-age.
"The rags-to-riches story of Nell Gwynn is an important and timely one" says 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."
Alison Luff makes her D.C. theater debut, playing Nell Gwynn, the feisty citrus-seller who soon captures the hearts of English audiences as an actor in the King's Company. The cast of Nell Gwynn also features Christopher Dinolfo as Edward Kynaston, who had previously played the women's parts and adamantly opposes women on the English stage; Catherine Flye as Nancy, Nell's personal dresser and confidante; R.J. Foster as Charles II, the king who is smitten with Nell's bold spirit; Quinn Franzen as Charles Hart, the leading actor of the King's Company; Michael Glenn as the Company's resident playwright John Dryden; and Nigel Gore as Thomas Killigrew, the seasoned Company manager.
Regina Aquino (Lady Castlemaine), Caitlin Cisco (Rose Gwynn), Kevin Collins (Musician), Jeff Keogh (Lord Arlington), Alex Michell (Ned Spigget), and Zoe Speas (Queen Catherine) round out the ensemble.
"With Robert Richmond leading this extraordinary cast and creative team, Nell Gwynn promises to be full of life, hope, and laughter," Janet Alexander Griffin, Folger Theatre's Artistic Producer, says. "London theatergoers fell in love with Jessica Swale's valentine to the theater, and we are excited to present this intelligent and exceptionally funny play to D.C. audiences at the Folger."
Nell Gwynn features original music composed by Kim Sherman. Robert Richmond will again collaborate with the creative team who helped to craft the inspired worlds for Macbeth (2018), Antony and Cleopatra, Timon of Athens, among others, including four-time Helen Hayes Award winner Tony Cisek (scenic design), Mariah Anzaldo Hale (costume design), Andrew F. Griffin (lighting design), and Matt Otto (sound design).
Nell Gwynn is presented in concert with 'Before Farm to Table': Early Modern Foodways and Cultures, a Mellon initiative in collaborative research, convened by the Folger Institute. Nell Gwynn will run during the exhibition First Chefs: Fame and Foodways from Britain to the Americas, on display in the Folger's Great Hall January 19 through March 31, 2019. First Chefs tells the stories of the named and unnamed heroes of early modern food culture, and juxtaposes the extravagance of an increasingly cosmopolitan and wealthy upper class against the human cost of its pleasures. Visit www.folger.edu/exhibitions for details; free.
Nell Gwynn is on stage at Folger Theatre from January 29 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 www.folger.edu/theatre.
Photo Credit: Jennifer Broski