Chicago Shakespeare Theater Presents NELL GWYNN Review- Fun Imagining in Shakespeare Lite Style

You take one look and listen to one line form Scarlett Strallen portraying King Charles II’s heartthrob Nell Gwynn, and you know you are in for one fun romp.  For this reviewer though, it is the two supporting actresses in this talent-full cast who most tickled.  One is Hollis Resnik in two campy roles—one as Queen Catherine, Charles’ much neglected Portuguese wife, and the other Old Ma Gwynn, Nell’s mother.  The other is Natalie West playing Nancy, Nell’s dresser and confidante, with her usual deadpan charms that are so familiar to so many from her portrayal of Crystal on the Roseanne show.

Whether it’s Nell Gwynn raising her fan to signal a man’s erection, or Nancy being dumb as a plank and at the same time the keeper of cut-thru-the-BS reality speak, or perhaps David Bedella as the ever ready drag star dressed in falsies as he portrays Edward Kynaston-- these are actors ready to bring on the comedy.

We learn from the program that these characters are based on real historical figures. Nell Gwynn is the one time prostitute and orange seller (the equivalent of a movie theater popcorn vendor) who goes from gutter to stage actress and then the truly loved concubine of the King.  It’s her story in this script by playwright Jessica Swale that is also  peppered up with some not-so-subtle references to the politics of our “Make England Great Again” (sic) times.

Perfect for Chicago Shakespeare Fans Seeking Something Lite

This is a play made-to-order for Shakespeare fans looking for something a few shades lighter than a Shakespeare comedy.   Great use is made of the entire theater space by Director Christopher Luscombe of this London import.  Everything in this production appears to be designed to make you smile—and you do.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater NELL GWYNN
Edward Kynaston (David Bedella) demonstrates his techniques for portraying women onstage, while John Dryden (Christopher Sheard), Ned Spiggett (Richard David), and Thomas Killigrew (Bret Tuomi)
Chicago Shakespeare Theater NELL GWYNN
Nell Gwynn (Scarlett Strallen), one of the first actresses to perform on the stages of London’s burgeoning West End, captures the hearts of audiences—and the king


Thru November 4- varying curtain times-- Click discount ticket tab for curtain time info.


Chicago Shakespeare Theater
800 East Grand





Note: Picture This Post reviews are excerpted by Theatre in Chicago

For more information visit the Chicago Shakespeare Theater website.

All Photos by Liz Lauren.

Amy Munice

About the Author: Amy Munice

Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.

Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.


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