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ARTS

Heroine chic

Playfest's centerpiece performance is a comic, yet compelling, look at a historical figure

Photo: , License: N/A, Created: 2011:03:22 20:32:27

Woman's Day - (from left) Walter Kmiec is Count O, Katherine Tanner is proto-feminist Margaret Fuller and Allison DeCaro is an old Italian woman in Charm


This tragic tale of a pioneering proto-feminist may sound a bit too fraught and fussy to be much fun, but fear not: Cahill's take on Fuller is more farcical fantasy than heavy history. In the hands of director Patrick Flick, Charm feels like children's theater for literature majors. (If you aren't up on your transcendentalism, take a pre-curtain moment to read the helpful program notes.) Skirts billow to impossible size, a statue of Descartes springs to life offering advice and subtitles are provided by a cue-card-carrying spangled showgirl. Fuller herself is so "ahead of her time" that she indulges in high-fives and other absurd anachronisms. Robin Watts' scrim-heavy set, dominated by oversized books and cracked Doric columns, along with Eric T. Haugen's impressionistic lighting (accented by falling snow and leaves) add greatly to the staging's dreamlike quality.

Not every scene-ending punch line is properly punctuated, and the fantastical froufrou occasionally threatens to render frivolous Fuller's groundbreaking stands on female equality and human rights. But with Tanner's lively performance - supported by fine work from the rest of the company - at its core, Charm is a comic, yet compelling, look at a largely forgotten pioneer whose influence is still felt today.

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