Bruka Theatre showcases Theatrical Gem with “Compleat Female Stage Beauty”
With great anticipation, I attended the opening premiere of Bruka’s latest production, Stage Beauty, Jeffrey Hatcher’s play recounting the rise and subsequent fall of beloved actor Ned Kynaston, who has graced the London stage in such roles as Cleopatra, Ophelia, and most infamously, Desdemona. Admired and praised for his interpretations of such characters, Kynaston dominates the theater world. However, this all changes when King Charles II – prompted by his mistress Nell Gywnn – proclaims that women are permitted to act on stage and men are no longer allowed to play female parts. Kynaston loses the favor of the aristocracy, is fired from his theater, and is dumped, for a lack of a better word, by his secret love affair, the Duke of Buckingham. When all that he holds dear is taken from him, Kynaston embarks on a journey of self-discovery to find who he truly is and what his place in this brave new world is.
Rarely do I leave theatrical engagements so moved and entranced by the production that I find myself in a state of utter awe and wonderment. Striking and poignant, I sat paralyzed by what I had just seen, not quite ready to leave; not quite ready for the magic of the piece to be over. Bruka’s Stage Beauty is an aesthetic masterpiece with strategic blocking, creative set changes, and impeccable costuming that aid in bringing this foray into the joys and woes of theater and acting to life.
Director Bill Ware brilliantly cast the play with some of Reno’s finest actors – a cast I fondly refer to as the acting “Dream Team” of Reno. Bradford Ka’ai’ai owns the show as our fair Kynaston. I have seen Ka’ai’ai masterfully play a number of characters throughout my years here in Reno, but I feel this is his best role to date. Ka’ai’ai brings an engaging complexity to the character and demonstrates such range, bringing audiences to raucous laughter with his brazen wit but leaves audiences gently dabbing the tears from their eyes, as we learn that beneath the strong, confident façade of Kynaston lies a soft, graceful creature racked with insecurities and longing. Ka’ai’ai may have owned the show overall, Stacy Johnson often steals the show from him, as Nell Gywnn. Johnson’s current role as a principal for comedy troupe, The Utility Players, is apparent with her comedic timing and matter-of-fact delivery. Amy Ginder, diverging from her typical sassy female roles, takes on the challenge of soft, but ambitious, wannabe actress Margaret Hughes. Perhaps two of my favorite characters of the piece were Charles II (played by Lewis Zaumeyer) and Sir Charles Sedley (played by Michael Peters) whose superb flamboyancy is magical to watch. I feel that the some of the supporting cast members could be stronger. In a piece such as this, it’s important to find humor behind the humor; the subtle moments of jest and comedy, whether it is a knowing glance or a deadpan delivery. These moments come with confidence and understanding of the characters and their part in the larger picture of the production. I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the incredible behind-the-scenes work of the crew who valiantly attempt to make the costume and scene changes as seamless as possible. My major criticism is that because there are so many transitions, the crew needs to tighten up the timing of said changes, as to not lose the energy developed and carry it onto the next scene. The transition music, though delightful, is perhaps too obvious. The ominous, foreboding sounds most certainly hinted that disaster was on the horizon as if to mentally prepare us for what is to come. There are many things in life that I need to primed and prepped for, but a scene change is not.
As a working drag queen myself, I related immensely to the plight of Kynaston, who desires to carve out a place for himself in a world that doesn’t accept him fully for who he is. For many, Kynaston’s portrayal of women on the stage is just a profession where in Kynaston’s mind, it is a part of who he is and the part of him that brings him the
most joy from life. Beyond that, I think this 17th century tale certainly has modern relevance, as too many of us have experience the cold ostracism from family, friends, and society in pursuit of our dreams. Many of us are defined by that which we do and when that is taken from us, we feel that we are floundering in the nebulous void of life attempting to find solid ground.
I give Stage Beauty 4 and half ENCORES out of 5. A mesmerizing beauty of a production that is as touching as it is ridiculous. Stage Beauty is currently now at Bruka Theater through February 9th. Get your tickets now by calling their box office at (775) 323-3221, online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/475285. or purchase tickets at the door.
Posted on January 23, 2014, in Bruka, Ceezon Critiques, Gay Gay Liberace Gay, Hot Men, Movies, Plays/Theater, Reno Area Theatre Alliance (RATA), Sex, The Utility Players and tagged Amanda Alvey, Bradford Ka'ai'ai, British Comedy, Compleat Female Stage Beauty, Ian Sorensen, Jeffrey Hatcher, Stacy Johnson, Stage Beauty, Theater. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.