Times Reader Reviews!
What a beautiful show. Hilarious, yet also poetic and touching. Tackles issues of identity, gender and the nature of art, yet never feels highfalutin. Lovely performances... and how on earth did they change costumes so fast? You'll see what I mean if you go see it.
Chaim Kaplan, Pasadena, CA
I just saw this last night and loved it. The performances are extraordinary. I was equally invested in both the story of the characters, as well as the play within a play...great costumes, excellent set idea. I highly recommend you see it! Kudos to the folks at Sacred Fools.
Troy, Los Angeles, CA
I saw a performance of Act A Lady on Saturday, and loved it. Seeing a performance at this cozy friendly theatre was a treat.
Allison, Los Angeles, CA
This is a great play. It's
hilarious and subtle, with great performances. Theatre lovers should definitely go.
Chris, Los Angeles, CA
Like the players in Shakespeare’s
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the blue-collar acting troupe in Jordan Harrison’s comedy are looking
to elevate their lives through art. The residents of a small Midwestern
town in the ’30s stage a melodrama in which the all-male cast dresses
up as pampered coquettes in the 18th-century French court. With their
fancy headdresses, powdered faces and fluttering fans, these thespians
— Christopher Goodson, Joe Fria and Ryan Spahn — are hilarious-looking
indeed. Add their mincing mannerisms and precision timing (under Kiff
Scholl’s direction), and you’ve got ingredients for considerable
gender-bending humor... In Harrison’s script — which to its credit
takes on gender stereotypes and the blurred boundary between art and
life — once the melodrama’s plot (of two jealous tigresses fighting to
the death over a pompous count) has been established, the gag gets
repetitive. Far more interesting are the stories surrounding the production: They involve Dorothy (an expressive Alice Wollerton), a
Bible-beating accordion teacher married to one of the players, as well
as a make-up artist (Kimberly Atkinson) and a feminist director (Kathleen Mary Carthy), both imported from Hollywood. Meanwhile,
Spahn’s coltish young man, whose experience playing a French maid
brings him face to face with his true desires, is likable and endearing.
This venture, by Jordan Harrison, is about gender. But it shines most when it makes a case for theatre and its transformative ethos. It's 1927, and the Elks club is putting on a performance to benefit children. It has chosen a period play in which the men dress as women, and that isn't going over too well with the town's temperance ladies. The most strait-laced of all is an accordion-playing teetotaler named Dorothy (Alicia Wollerton), the wife of Miles (Christopher Goodson), the lead actor in the show. His two compatriots, True (Joe Fria) and Casper (Ryan Spahn), are eager to get started, and they finally get Dorothy's grudging assent. The construct of the play balances scenes of the actors in their Midwestern town with the exotic 18th-century French characters they play. There is some confusion for the audience with Harrison's ambitious gender swapping, as actors morph into their opposite-gender counterparts. The sincerity of the Sacred Fools ensemble in capturing the seductive draw of dramatics makes up for the preternatural leanings of the script.
The women are rounded out by Lorna (Kimberly Atkinson), a one-time movie makeup artist, and Zina (Kathleen Mary Carthy), the histrionic lesbian director. The interactions among all these characters in understanding the male and female in us all is intriguing and often hilarious, but the actors never lose sight of the souls of their characters. The production would be far less effective were it not for the fine acting, skillfully led by director Kiff Scholl.
Credit Jade Winters' delightful costumes and Joel Scher's fetching wigs and makeup for giving the guys inspiration. Notable is Spahn as a young man whose budding awareness of his sexuality gives him pause. Wollerton, too, is fine as a woman who confronts her inner desires and tries to reconcile them with the societal strictures of the time.
Once in a while you hit on a fun play with good acting, good writing, good costumes and lots of good makeup, and
Act A Lady was one of those little plays, now at The Sacred Fools Theatre, one block west of Vermont, off of Melrose. The playwright, Jordan Harrison, incorporated lots of laughter and original characters into his inventive play for Kiff Scholl to direct.
"Hey, let’s raise some money for the kids...let’s put on a play!" Sounds good, huh? So these three guys from the Elk’s Lodge, sitting in an old general store in the l930s, decide to put on a play about, love, secret admirers, betrayal and a very large emerald necklace.
Then along comes THE WIFE! "Oh no," she says, ‘you can’t go in front of the whole town dressin’ up in fancy woman clothing. It’s just not….right!" Alicia Wollerton plays the conservative wife, Dorothy, who also plays the accordion and sings silly, funny songs.
Thus, the theme for the production is laid out. Will dressing as
the other gender change one’s being? Well, suffice to say, the men
are in drag...French Revolution costumes, created by costume
designer Jade Winters, with heavy make-up and big wigs, and saying
their lines as naturally as if they were sitting at a bar chatting
with one another.
When Lady Romola, impersonated by Christopher Goodson, who also plays Dorothy’s husband, Miles, must make a quick getaway from the Countess Roquefort, Joe Fria, also playing True, he changes into men’s clothing, posing as a young man. So, we have the man, impersonating a woman, impersonating a man theme. Now he interests Greta, the Maid, played with gusto, by Ryan Spahn, who also plays Casper. A tryst by the bridge is brewing…
Another new love interest begins when Lorna, played by Kimberly Atkinson, and an old school chum of True, arrives in town. Watching True in this underwear, big crinoline, hip pads, undershirt, full makeup and lipstick, trying to seduce Lorna wearing a dress with oxfords, was just as funny as it looked.
So now we have Miles, True and Casper playing ladies, and Dorothy and Lorna being ladies, when who breezes into town but Zina, the director, in male director’s britches and a tight shirt, saying that she only wears pants…it gives her more control. Kathleen Mary Carthy plays Zina with zest and incomplete somersaults.
So what is the effect of such gender bending confusion on these characters?
Find out the answers to this and other important questions at the Sacred Fools Theatre.