Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Moxie’s “Handbagged” Full Of Wonderful Surprises With Excellent Acting By Two Of San Diego's Elite.

Imagine Sandy Campbell and Linda Libby on stage at the same time?  Sandy, who so perfectly portrayed Maria Callas in “Master Class” winning her an award from the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle and in another, including her portrayal of Lucille Frank in “Alfred Uhry’s “Parade and Linda Libby, who won the San Diego Theatre Critics Award in 21013 as Actor of The Year for her body of work that year. That’s big news!
Sandy Campbell and Linda Libby as Queen ElizabethII and Margaret Thatcher
Now they are adversaries, looking for common remembrances as Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in playwright Moira Buffini’s “Handbagged”, currently in a west coast premiere at Moxie Theatre through Nov. 17th.

Add Lisel Gorell-Getz, who just finished her stunning appearance in “The Virgin Trial” as the now Meg, Thatcher’s fiery younger self and Debra Wanger (“Angels In America”) as the poised Liz, the younger Queen herself.

Adding to the balance Max Macke plays a series of characters including Thatcher’s husband, Dennis, Rupert Murdock and Ronald Reagan among others.
Debra Wanger, Max Macke, Durwood Murray and Sandy Campbell
Durwood Murray plays the second male role. He is about seven different people, and in an hysterical turn of events comes out in a bright red skirt and white fancy collared top as Nancy Reagan. It’s one you have to see to believe.

Put them all under the wings of Kim Strassburger’s superb direction and the end result is one hell of a production filled with collective surprises, historical and/or otherwise disclosures and an evening that begs your attendance.   
Lisel Gorell-Getz as younger Thatcher, Max Macke as Dennis Thatcher and Linda Libby as older Margret Thatcher
In a civilized society people in high places usually show some degree of respect toward one another. Unlike politics in the US especially now, our present leader tweets; he does not person -to person -talk, at least not to his opposition. Here there is no civility.  

In the U.K. the Queen, who is titular head of state and her Prime Minister who may be elected from either party, meet at the Queen’s behest. It could be on a regular basis or not if that’s the case.

When Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister 1979-1990, she and the Queen met on a regular/weekly basis for eleven years. She was the longest serving Prime Minister to date. While not so close in friendship, the Queen attended her funeral, the only one since Churchill, to pay her respects, she was that impressed. 

Margaret Thatcher, otherwise known as ‘The Iron Lady” was much the conservative and no frills leader contrary to the more centrist ideas of Queen Elizabeth II. They had their ups and downs, shared different temperaments; the Queen, they say having a dry wit and Thatcher no humor at all. The were controversial but always civil, at least in their later years.     
Debra Wanger and Sandy Campbell as younger and older Queen Elizabeth II
Ms. Buffini begins her story somewhat at the beginning of those meetings and goes back and forth between their younger days when sabers rattled over the Falkland Islands, high unemployment, the miners strike, apartheid in Africa, a divided commonwealth and troubles in Northern Ireland, and as a side include mention of the Queen’s dogs, her different residences, her children. Both husbands manage cursory appearances here and there courtesy of Mackie.

Both sides get their points of views aired, but what makes Buffini’s play so wonderful and delicious is not the play itself, but the actors who breathe life into it; weave it into a comprehensive whole.  As the four pair off and separate, come together we know we are in the midst of seeing two, not just powerhouse actors but powerhouse politicians.  
Durwood Murray as Kenneth Kaunda (or KK) and Linda Libby as Margaret Thatcher

Sandy Campbell’s somewhat stooped, slow stepped gait and white hair and pink silk looking coat and gloves, and three strands of pearls, (Danita Lee dsigned the costumes) and flats is in stark contrast to Libby’s somewhat royal blue suit, pearls and scarf with low heeled pumps and long deliberate strides, strides of confidence and leadership.  Both are carrying ‘handbags’, of course.

 Compare the softness but intense stare of Campbell’s eyes to the piercing almost eagle eye looks from Libby and let me say…that can be a bit intimidating. You get the picture. It’s all so perfectly timed and well delivered that at some moments you almost forget you are watching a play as they break the fourth wall. (T. “She’s ever so small”.  Q. “She colors her hair.” T. “We’re the same age.” Q. “Of the same era. Formed in war.” T. “In every way, we are peers.”)

 Both Wanger and Gorell-Getz get their One -upmanship as the dueling younger selves are put to the test of their elder’s memories of the same set of events. No notes were taken, their meetings were private and accordingly they were the only one’s who knew what was said unless there were flies on the wall, or playwright Moira Buffini, whose fun filled suggestions of what might have happened to inspire this credibly prophetic (“Make Britain great again.”) play come to light and life.  

Julie Lorenz set designer gives a simple round about set with a table on a top tier for serving tea and. In the background painted across the entire stage is the Union Jack painted by Julie Lorenz.  It’s difficult not to notice and a wonderful visual. Cynthia Bloodgood designed the lighting, Mason Pilevsky the sound, Missy Bradstreet designed the wigs and the wonderfully talented Vanessa Dinning acted as dialect coach. 
Linda Libby as Margaret Thatcher
And one last quote from Thatcher: “I always say if you want something said, ask a man. But if you want something done, ask a woman.” She was a you -know -what -buster but hung on for a long time as Prime Minister.

It’s a must see and deserves a two thumbs up!

See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through Nov. 17th
Organization: Moxie Theatre
Phone: 858-598-7620
Production Type: Comedy
Where: 6663 El Cajon Blvd.
Ticket Prices: Start at $33.00
Photo: Daren Scott

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