PICKSINSIX Review: NELL GWYNN
‘NELL GWYNN’ - FAST, FUNNY COMIC DELIGHT!
Based on the true-to-life story of the mistress of King Charles II, who rose from selling oranges on the streets and a life in the brothels of London’s West End, Jessica Swale’s uproarious comedy “Nell Gwynn” flips the historical script on politics, sex and society in an entertaining, large-scale production, the North American premiere of the Olivier Award-winning comedy now playing at Chicago Shakespeare Theater through November 4th.
Christopher Luscombe directed the original 2015 London production that premiered at The Globe Theatre. The lavish production Luscombe has conceived on Navy Pier features the lively and thoroughly engaging performances of Scarlett Strallen and Timothy Edward Kane leading a seasoned top-flight company in a richly told, fast, funny comic delight!
Imagine the moment in mid-17th century London that women replaced men playing women on stage. That is essentially the defining moment in time around which everything else revolves for Nell Gwynn. Discovered by Charles Hart (John Tufts), leading actor in the King’s Company, Nell is recruited to play the woman’s roles, much to the disappointment of Edward Kynaston (David Bedella) whose stage career was defined by the female roles he played in the plays written by John Dryden (Christopher Sheard). Thomas Killigrew (Bret Tuomi), the manager of the company, takes an interest in furthering Nell’s career and soon she is the leading actress on the West End stage. Together with her sister, Rose (Emma Ladji) and dresser, Nancy (Natalie West) the story of Nell’s stage career, and a budding romance with Charles, begins to unfold.
King Charles II has returned from exile and, without regard for his Queen Catherine (Hollis Resnik, in one of two superb split roles, the other as Ma Gwynn), taken up with Lady Castlemaine (Emily Gardner Xu Hall, who also plays French mistress Louis de Kerouaille). As soon as he spots her, nothing can stop Charles from his quest for the alluring Nell, including the high-handed Lord Arlington (Larry Yando) his chief advisor who is determined to undermine the relationship.
If this all sounds like a serious Shakespearean history, think again. “Nell Gwynn” is a fresh, imaginative, comic treatment that is beautifully scored by Nigel Hess and choreographed by Amber Mak. Clever, modern references pop up in the most unlikely places throughout Scales delightful script. The over-the-top, riotously funny David Bedella, and the wily comic Natalie West, shoot from a quiver full of comic zingers all night long.
Hugh Durrant designed an elaborate period courtyard and the exquisite costumes for this visually rich production. Richard Jarvie’s wig and make-up design are inspired as is Jermaine Hill’s superb music direction. Make a reservation now. You will fall in love with “Nell Gwynn!”
CHICAGO SHAKESPEARE THEATER
through November 4th
800 East Grand Avenue
For more reviews, visit: Theatre In Chicago