Elizabeth Farley (McKenna Twedt) is fluffing up her theater costume and trying to sneak it out to “a rendezvous.” That’s a nice way of saying she’s been summoned (to the palace by the king, no less) for sex. But, wait, isn’t she an actress?
April De Angelis’ Playhouse Creatures revisits Restoration England (circa 1660) to depict the lives of the first women to take on the mantel of “actress.” Of course, a big part of that story is that society’s general maltreatment of the female gender bled into that profession in all-too-familiar ways. The first actresses were typecast as high and low class. They were solicited for prostitution. They were suspected of sorcery. They were discarded once pregnant or old. Hundreds of years later, those woes still ring true.
Yet far from wallowing, this play engages, absorbs, and entertains. Twedt deftly rides her character’s rise to fame and fall from grace, evoking first scorn and then pity.
My friend who moved to LA to do comedy has a funny habit: she collects and shares all the casting notices she receives each day to play prostitutes. Rich in comedy and rife with insult and stereotype, these requests are so shockingly common they roll into her phone like a ceaseless tide. “Dead prostitute” may be most popular. “Nonspeaking,” almost equally so. “Unpaid” is the coin of the realm. In Hollywood it seems, if one chose, an actress could silently prostitute herself for no pay several times every day. Dead inside? Even better. That would be “method” for most of the roles.