Loosely based on the sex worker, playwright, Kate Hamill, has renamed her as Harriet (Keiko Green) in her comedic drama set in 1830. Early in the story, Harriet is preparing her memoirs, which include details about her relationship with the Duke of Wellington Arthur Wellesley (MJ Sieber). Harriet reflects on her affair with Arthur, while also trying to be independent, in spite of their economic and gender inequality.
Hamill plays with tone throughout her script. The first two thirds of the plot are heavy with humor, but her dialogue turns drastically serious when Arthur becomes more integral to the events onstage. Disturbing subject matter is addressed in the latter part of the show, including underage sex, violence, and social status issues. She keeps Harriet’s journey riveting, even as levity decreases towards the climax.
Director, Rob Lutfy, handles the tonal shifts during the 100-minute runtime with ease and masterfully stages every conversation Harriet shares with others. He is just as skilled presenting a tense discussion between two people as he is with extended monologues, which all take place on Yi-Chien Lee’s set. Lee’s work is full of clever details that tie into the courtesan’s writing.
Speeches that Harriet gives focusing on her book are stylish, and feature memorable contributions from sound designer, Steven Leffue, and lighting designer, Anne E. McMills.
Expertly handling Hamill’s prose are the ensemble, with real life couple, Green and Sieber doing standout acting throughout the evening. Green almost never leaves the stage, and excels at spouting irreverent one-liners, as well as showing tearful emotion, and defiant strength.Sieber portrays a variety of men ranging from humorously clownish to heartless. His comedic and dramatic skills consistently impress as he slips into different characters and costumes from Shirley Pierson.
Green and Sieber’s scenes together are broadly hilarious, emotional, and at times darkly intense.
Rounding out the cast are Rachael VanWormer, who brings empathy to Harriet’s kindhearted and hapless maid, Mary, and Sofia Jean Gomez, who strongly depicts Harriet’s rival, Julia.
Cygnet’s version of The Little Fellow should lead audiences to reflect on Harriet’s struggles, and how they still resonate in 2023. It is a thought-provoking and powerfully acted experience at the Old Town Theatre.
[box] Show times are Wednesdays at 7:00 pm, Thursdays at 7:00 pm, Fridays at 7:00 pm, Saturdays at 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm, and Sundays at 2:00 pm. [/box]