Queen Undaunted: Margaret of Anjou stars E. Bonnie Lewis in this critically acclaimed one-woman show told in private reflection and memory.
Margaret is the only female character to appear in four of William Shakespeare’s plays. From her first appearance as a young French princess engaged to Henry VI of England to her defeated but unvanquished old self, we follow her through Henry VI, Parts 1, 2, and 3 and Richard III. Some historians would say she was responsible for England’s 15th century civil war, known as the War of the Roses.
Pitting the white rose York’s to rebel against the red-rose Lancaster’s; with Margaret more powerful than King Henry on the Lancaster side, this Queen occupied her throne from the beginning of that war to the final defeat of Richard III, the last York king. This play depicts how a woman of the fifteenth century could defy the norms of her time to direct the course of England.
In the course of this tightly packed one act, Lewis bestows qualities of humanity and depth while peeling away the layers of this diverse woman and inviting audiences to discover the arc of this arguably great woman’s life. Many of the gender issues of her story still relate to today. Lewis was recently reviewed in another production and hailed as “bright, intelligent and passionate ... outstanding … always commanding, our own, younger Judi Dench” by Alex Henteloff of Casa Magazine.
Queen Margaret loves, hates, acts with intensity in a world where women were meant to be compliant, submissive — and quiet. Complex and ambiguous, her voice resonates through the ages. Much of the script is in Shakespeare’s words, with transitions and explanations as well as the overall structure created by the playwright Jinny Webber. No background in Shakespeare or medieval English history is needed to enjoy this play, which conveys Margaret’s story through words and inventive staging.
Director Ken Gilbert and co-director Michelle Osborne designed the innovative staging, sound and costumes, for which their DramaDogs, a theater company, is known. Award-winning designer Theodore Michael Dolas handled the set and lighting duties for this production. Stage Manager is Erica Connell, co-founder of DramaDogs.
Critics are united in recommending the performance and play. Justine Sutton, in her Noozhawk review last year exclaimed that, “E. Bonnie Lewis shone in speaking the words as Queen Margaret in all the facets of her complex character. The elegant language, often imbued with her slightly more modern tone and expression, felt accessible and yet still authentic. More than the words, what brought Margaret to life was Lewis’ movement. A dancer as well as actor, she is able to portray raw emotion, as well as depicting the mundane moments in life that not even a queen is immune to, with her physicality. A small gesture of her hand or turn of her mouth could bring deep humanity and vulnerability to this ambitious and volatile character.”
The Santa Barbara Independent’s arts editor and reviewer, Charles Donelan, noted that the one-woman show as “scintillating… deftly acted by the talented E. Bonnie Lewis.” Donelan also praised the script, “(Jinny) Webber succeeds admirably in condensing and organizing the challenging early works of Shakespeare … to give a well-rounded account of an alternately monstrous and majestic woman.”
Queen Undaunted: Margaret of Anjou plays through Sunday at Center Stage Theater, 751 Paseo Nuevo. Tickets are available online by clicking here or at the Center Stage Box Office, 751 Paseo Nuevo, from noon to 5 p.m. Friday and one hour before performances. Call 805.963.0408.
— Maureen McFadden is a publicist representing DramaDogs.