The reviews are in for ‘Compleat Female Stage Beauty’

In the flamboyant reign of King Charles II, London’s most renowned leading lady is a man named Edward Kynaston. But when royal decree puts women onstage and Kynaston finds his role reversed, he must learn to adapt with the times.

Walking Shadow Theatre Company presents the regional premiere of “Compleat Female Stage Beauty,” Jeffrey Hatcher’s play which was turned into a film in 2004.


Wade A. Vaughn as Edward Kynaston in Compleat Female Stage Beauty

Photo by Dan Norman

Critics deemed this production a winner – here are excerpts of their reviews:

From Anna Rosensweig at

In Walking Shadow’s production (on which Hatcher consulted), it’s Wade A. Vaughn’s portrayal of Kynaston that really stands out. Vaughn embodies this fascinating character with a complexity that is nothing short of remarkable. Navigating several layers of performance, Vaughn must play Kynaston on stage as Desdemona, Kynaston in drag in St. James Park, and Kynaston as a fallen star attempting to re-fashion his persona. Vaughn succeeds at every level, often with staggering amounts of emotional depth and complexity.


Anika Reitman, Katie Kaufmann, Wade A. Vaughn and Duncan Frost in Compleat Female Stage Beauty

Photo by Dan Norman

From Graydon Royce at the Star Tribune:

Kynaston discovers his inner man through a tryst with his dresser, Maria, although this experience doesn’t quite feel profound enough to effect such a transformation. Suddenly, he is up for the testosterone-fueled role of Othello and is throwing Hughes’ Desdemona around stage like he’s Stanley Kowalski dispatching Blanche. But Hatcher’s play is so enjoyable and his love for backstage drama so genuine that we suspend disbelief at this point and ride with the action.


Jane Froiland, Duncan Frost and Wade A. Vaughn

Photo by Dan Norman

From Dominic P. Papatola at the Pioneer Press:

Director John Heimbuch offers a telling of the tale that captures its paradoxes well. A trio of live musicians plays sweet period music on the hammer dulcimer and period-appropriate string instruments. Every frill and corset stay is in place in Katherine B. Kohl’s costume design. But both Hatcher’s script and Heimbuch’s direction show a shadier side of this proper society — debauchery and petty jealousies; gossip, ambition and the price of pride.


Jane Froiland and Wade A. Vaughn in Compleat Female Stage Beauty

Photo by Dan Norman

From Ed Huyck at City Pages:

What we have is a play rich in the gaudy excesses of the age. Think of the DayGlo 1960s, when the shackles of the gray postwar years were released and people were allowed to go more than a little mad. Now magnify that by 100. The explosions in culture, art, fashion, and more base pursuits all find their place in Compleat Female Stage Beauty, reminding us that the Baby Boomers didn’t discover sex, and theater is a constantly evolving game that remains the same at its heart.

Compleat Female Stage Beauty runs through June 2 at Minneapolis Theatre Garage. Have you seen the production? If so, what did you think? Share your review in the comments section.

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