I’ve seen a lot of plays lately in which men are dressed as women.
Wikipedia has an entry entitled “cross-gender acting”—in which the have an odd list about 35 or so movies or television that feature cross-gender acting. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross-gender_acting The list goes all the way back to 1914.
In the meantime, I’ve seen 14 or 15 plays in just the last few months that fall into this category
Men Playing Women:
Most of the plays consisted of male actors playing women’s roles. In some cases, they were playing multiple roles, which included women.
1. Richard III and Twelfth Night, which were performed by the same all male cast in repertory. Both plays stared Mark Rylance as Richard III in one case and as Olivia in the other. Other members of the cast played other female characters in both plays.
2. Bertolt Brecht’s A Man’s A Man at the Classic Stage Company. Justin Vivian Bond plays a female character for no good reason. One of the plays I did not love.
3. I Stole Your Dad –a one man show by John Hodgman—in one section he dresses as Ayn Rand.
4. Stop Hitting Yourself at Lincoln Center Theater is written by Kirk Lynn in collaboration with the Rude Mech theater collective. In addition to a cheese fountain, the play includes one female character played by a male.
5. Charles Ludlam’s The Mystery of Irma Vep at the Lucille Lortel Theater: Ludlam wrote this play for two male actors. Each actor plays multiple roles, including women, and the play features the actors leaving the stage only to return seconds later in a completely different costume.
6. Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, a Broadway musical, is another example of a play written for a male actor to play multiple characters, including women.
7. The Bedlam Theater Group is four actors (3 men and 1 woman) who have been doing Hamlet and St. Joan in repertory. They each play multiple roles with minimal costumes, make-up or props.
Some of the plays feature actors who are playing male characters who like to dress as women:
1. Charles Busch writes plays which feature drag queens. He usually stars in them. I had never seen his works until the recent The Tribute Artist at 59 East 59th Street. A very smart, enjoyable, farce.
2. Casa Valentina, by Harvey Fierstein on Broadway is a play based on a real group of men who met secretly to spend the weekends dressed as women. One of two plays in the bunch that I disliked.
And a final category is male actors who are playing men who dress as women to fool others:
1. The Heir Apparent, which just finished its run at the Classic Stage Company, was written in the 18th century by Jean-Francois Regnard and updated by David Ives. A Moliere-style farce, involves cross-dressing and impersonation as part of antics to gain an inheritance from a dying tightwad.
2. The Good Person of Szechwan at the Public Theater. The main character of this Bertolt Brecht play is a female who is too nice and is constantly taken advantage of. She dresses as man in order to allow her to take control of the situation by being more cold, calculating and brutal. The Public Theater production, which I loved, featured Taylor Mac, in this role–so we had a male playing a female who dresses as a man. In the talk back after the performance I attended, Taylor Mac, who does cabaret style shows in drag, said he wants to separate himself as an actor from his cabaret shows. Therefore, he was reluctant to take a role that involved playing a woman. I’m glad he did–he was fabulous.
I’ve also seen a couple of plays in which women are playing men. Interestingly, in both plays, the actresses are playing men, but not are not costumed or made up as men: