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Off Broadway

He Says: 59E59 Theater’s Handbagged is Overstuffed but Intriguing

He Says: 59E59 Theater’s Handbagged is Overstuffed but Intriguing

Even though the stereotypical British handbags are never mentioned by name in the Round House Theatre production of Moira Buffini’s Handbagged currently playing as part of 59E59 Theater’s Brits Off Broadway series, the iconic bag does make its metaphoric appearance almost consistently on the forearms of all four of the wonderful ladies who lead us on this fascinating historical journey. The four are essentially two; one pair for each of the two ladies at the core of this piece, namely Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The older and wiser pair basically play narrators and tour guides for us as we are witness to the sometimes tense interactions between the younger alter egos. Kate Fahy (Young Vic’s Othello) stoically plays the determined T to Anita Carey’s (Berkeley’s Tribes) regale Q, watching with a keen eye over the younger proud Mags, portrayed strongly by Susan Lynskey (Round House’s Pride and Prejudice) interact with the curious junior Liz, portrayed most beautifully by the throughly engaging Beth Hylton (Gulfshore Playhouse’s A Doll’s House). They square off with awkward grace and politeness, much as we would expect from these two famously disciplined and self contained historical figures, diving into their shared political history with detailed exactitude, trying their best to navigate the conflicts of Britain’s conflicts and personal stances, many of which are widely known, and some, not so much.

Kate Fahy, John Lescault, Cody LeRoy Wilson, Beth Hylton, Susan Lynskey. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

The smart, witty and sometimes chilly stroll through the cold air of Thatcher three-term years plays out wisely and elegantly. The two-acter drags a bit, especially after the British interval, as they stride forward into the future, correcting and squabbling amongst themselves, even with their own younger versions, about what was actually said or done in those private moments between the two. It’s a strong, yet occasionally overly formal affair that engages within fascinating bits of clash and pivots. These ladies get a strong and much needed boost of comedic energy from the two male actors that play an assortment of auxiliary roles with determined glee. Cody Leroy Wilson (Round House’s The Book of Will) is fantastic, standing against yet serving the two/four well in a wild array of detailed characters, such as the Queen’s press secretary but also the wonderfully engaging and funny Nancy Reagan. John Lescault (Round House’s The Lyons) charmingly pulls off a cowboy hat-wearing Ronald Reagan, as well as an ornery Prince Phillip at a picnic. Their assist fills out the meta-narrative with passion and joy, which in general is held pretty tight and close to the breast, much like that iconic handbag on the arms of those two diametrically opposed ladies. Without these two game gents, the pleasure and inventiveness they bring in their interactions would be greatly missed.

Beth Hylton, Susan Lynskey, John Lescault. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

It’s a classy act in general, this peek inside the unknown Handbagged, perfectly played out against a backdrop of simple black and white, thanks to the artistic team of scenic and costume designer Richard Kent (IRT’s Disco Pigs), lighting designer Jesse Belsky (Round House’s Oslo) and sound designer Carolyn Downing (Broadway’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses). This secret interaction is not exactly new territory, mind you, as Peter Morgan took a broader and more imperial view of the Queen’s weekly engagements with a long list of Prime Ministers in the loftier The Audiencebut playwright Buffini (Storm Ted,, as directed with precision by Indhu Rubasingham (Kiln’s Red Velvet), does a fine, although sometimes brittle examination of what the cool air must have felt like between these two powerhouse women of that era. It’s a captivating, although sometimes slow and shuffling walk over and through the complicated highlands of the Monarchy’s world as she delicately determines her role in British history with her Prime Minister. If you are a history buff like myself, especially of England’s dynamic conflicts under the Iron Lady, then this is a stroll you might want to join. There are aspects of strife and history I knew nothing of, but their complicated engagement serves it up well, giving me a different view into a world I am always intrigued by. So take a seat, as I also love the gossip, and the horses.

Beth Hylton, Anita Carey, Kate Fahy, Susan Lynskey Photo by Carol Rosegg.

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Off Broadway

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to

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