Watching people put themselves in awkward situations can sometimes provide hours of enjoyment. In The Hub Theatre’s production of Jordan Harrison’s Act A Lady townsmen from a small God-fearing, prohibition-era Midwestern town decide to put on a play about women in the French Revolution era. This requires them to dress up as female characters. During the course of the rehearsals, the six characters start to blur the lines between the gender roles and discover the “inner man/woman” in each of them, and the laughs ensue.
Director Matthew Wilson has a talented cast to work with and he receives funny and heartwarming performances from his actors. I was especially impressed by Wilson’s ability to ease the transitions so effortlessly from one scene to the other, and by the actors’ ability to stay in their Midwestern accents (think of the movie Fargo).
Watching True (David Zimmerman), Casper (Cylee Durkee), and Miles (Matthew Pauli) rehearsing the play-within-the-play brought lots of laughs from the audience because it lent promise of more comical moments to follow. It was a joy watching these three talented actors when they became more animated when they were dressed up as the women of the French Revolution. It was during these scenes that you could see that they were really having fun, and that added to the enjoyment of the performance. Although I expected more laughs from the crazy antics on stage at the opening performance attended, I am confident that as the run progresses (and the critics stop stressing them out) the laughs will come in droves.
I really enjoyed the scenes where Dorothy (Toni Rae Salmi) belted out a tune with her accordion, and I was impressed by her ability to stay in character while having so much fun. Zina (Nora Achrati) was a standout as the Marlene Dietrich-ish ‘britches wearing’ director. The scenes of her tutoring the men in the art of ‘feminine mannerisms’ were extremely amusing. But the highlight of the evening for me was watching Acrati and Salmo explaining the art of seduction to Lorna (a very funny Jenna Sokolowski).
Maria Vetsch’s costume design was brilliant. The costumes for the Midwest scenes were simple as befitting their characters. The gowns, wigs, and make-up for the French Revolution scenes were grand. Klyph Stanford’s set was minimal but effective. A table and chair on the right side of the stage illustrated the Midwest while a settee placed on the left side was for the French Revolution, and a curtain separated the two sides of the stage. Suzanne Maloney’s prop design was used effectively to enhance the minimal sets. For example, a dropped down lighted mirror was used to set the scene of the dressing room. The excellent lighting and sound design by Andrew Cissna and Neil McFadden lent credence to the sets.
You can’t help but love all the ladies in The Hub Theatre’s Act A Lady.
Running time: 90 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.
Act a Lady plays through August 4, 2013 at The Hub Theatre in the John Swayze Theater – 9431 Silver King Court, in Fairfax, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (800) 494-8497, or purchase tickets online.