Burbage Theatre presents Playhouse Creatures by April De Angelis and directed by MJ Daly. This production is a partnership between WomensWork Theatre Collaborative and Burbage Theatre Co.
Daly enjoyed directing this production, and felt honored to work with such dedicated actors. She said, “I am proud to share this production with an audience. The cast and crew are a talented, hard-working ensemble, and they have made the creative process incredibly rewarding…. The collaboration between WomensWork Theatre Collaborative and Burbage Theatre Company has been supportive in putting forward this impactful story of these five actresses plucked out of history. I hope we have succeeded in making them real creatures.”
Here’s the premise: The year is 1669, a bawdy and troublesome time. Theaters have just reopened after 17 years of Puritan suppression. There is a surge in dramatic writing, and the first English actresses appear on stage. Playhouse Creatures focuses on five of the most famous, actual women of the era (Nell Gwyn, Elizabeth Farley, Rebecca Marshall, Doll Common, and Mary Betterton) to provide a moving and often comic account of the precarious lives of Restoration actresses.
Things start off slowly, but soon pick up, especially in Act 2. There are comic moments throughout, and also one deeply disturbing moment that will surely affect most women in the audience to their core. Your heart goes out to these ladies, realizing life during that time was a constant struggle for survival in a man’s world. The older you got, the truer this became.
These five strong female character parts switch between real-life in the dressing room, to stage life while delivering monologues and reading lines from Shakespeare. Playwright De Angelis has said, “You will be rewarded by ‘meeting’ five strong, humorous, gutsy women from yesteryear whose stories are not so different from the women of today.” Although, we’ve come a long way, baby!
The five actors are very expressive and embody the laughter and the tears of the times. Especially noteworthy are the comically exaggerated facial expressions of Autumn Jefferson (Mrs. Farley) and Lorraine Guerra (Nell Gywn). Lynne Collinson is the loveable narrator of this piece, also portraying an integral character (Doll) throughout as the senior actor in the troupe who keeps the ladies in line. Rae Mancini (Mrs. Marshall) and Paula Faber (Mrs. Betterton) round out the cast with their own unique talents as well.
With aspirations to grow their business, the ladies remember the gutter where they came from, and are ever cognizant they could end up right back there in a moment’s notice. Some ‘bawdy’ language, lots of laughs, and poignant moments as well. We are rooting for them the entire way as we ride the ups and downs of show biz with them. Burbage presents Playhouse Creatures through February 25. The performance time is approximately two hours, with one 10-minute intermission. For more information, visit burbagetheatre.org.