“Act a Lady” the charming play currently running at the Hub Theatre in Fairfax is a fanciful adventure into self-discovery by each of the main characters. The show takes place during the prohibition era in a small Minnesota town where the men of the town have decided to stage a play for charity where they will be playing the women in the show, which is a French Revolution period piece. Through the staging of the show within the show each of the characters, men and women, discovers something in their identity. The fanciful part of the production is that the characters from the show within the show begin inhabiting the Minnesota town and interacting with the people in the town. This includes conversations between the characters in the show with the men that are portraying the characters in the show, which at times were performed by the women in the cast. Did you keep that straight? Don’t worry, it isn’t nearly as complicated in person and sets up for some poignant and funny moments throughout the show. The complicated nature of the show and the somewhat over the top nature of the show within the show means that you need a particularly skilled cast to pull it off and not have it fall apart and into complete absurdity and the cast here did that from top to bottom.
While each of the characters has moments of self-discovery the most poignant is that of Caspar, who is a closeted gay man in this small Minnesota town who is afraid to outwardly express who he is, all the while having feelings for one of the other men in the town, who goes by the name True. Over the course of the show, like all the characters, he learns to embrace who he is even if it isn’t something that would be accepted in this small town. The same goes for True, who earned the nickname for his always being truthful. Of course, there are layers of him that need to be peeled away for a deep hidden secret he has to come to light and for him to accept. And so the story goes for each of the characters in the show.
The most impressive and enjoyable part of the show is the skill amongst each of the performers as they are taking on multiple roles and often change characters from scene to scene. Each of the three male actors portray their character from the Minnesota town, the character they are acting in the show within the show, and the real life character from the show within the show that has come to life. The woman all portray the woman in the town and at times the men from the Minnesota town. They each inhabit each character so distinctly that they are truly performing a different character that you don’t even need any cues to figure out which character they are. This is most distinctly evident towards the end of the show when the men are all dressed as the French Revolution women and at times they are the actual women from that time period that have inhabited this Minnesota town and at other times the Minnesota men dressed as the French women.