CoSA's own MTD teacher Kim Strassburger directs "Handbagged" at the Moxie TheatrePosted by: Elisabeth Josset 1 year, 4 months ago
From the SD Union Tribune, Monday October 28,2019
Review: Moxie Theatre’s ‘Handbagged’ a funny and surprising look at the fraught bond between a politician and a queen
Debra Wanger, Sandy Campbell and Lisel Gorell-Getz (from left) in Moxie Theatre’s “Handbagged.”
The play’s title aside, only one person actually gets pummeled with a purse in “Handbagged.”
But Moira Buffini’s funny and convention-flouting piece, now getting a crisply acted San Diego premiere at Moxie Theatre, is bound to deliver a little blindside thwack to unsuspecting playgoers’ sensibilities.
That title, as director Kim Strassburger explains in a program note, actually originated with one of the play’s two key subjects: Margaret Thatcher, the late British prime minister whose ruthless streak earned “handbagged” a place in the Oxford English Dictionary.
(As Thatcher once told CNN: “Of course, I am obstinate in defending our liberties and our law. That is why I carry a big handbag.”)
“Handbagged” revolves around the weekly tête-à-têtes the monarch and the politician convened during Thatcher’s time in office from 1979 to 1990 — a tenure that made her Britain’s longest-serving prime minister of the 20th century.
But the playwright is not content to tell that story straight: Instead, when the queen (Sandy Campbell) and Thatcher (Linda Libby) take the stage, they immediately start poking fun at theatrical artifice.
As Elizabeth puts it: “Whatever we say must stay within these three walls.” (And the fourth one, apparently, be damned.)
Then, Buffini rolls out the play’s defining gambit: A second queen/prime minister duo, Liz (Debra Wanger) and Mags (Lisel Gorell-Getz), who are younger and more candid versions of the first ones.
It’s an ingenious notion, and it works because virtually everything the real-life Thatcher and Elizabeth said in those meetings stayed between them alone; in the play, Liz and Mags serve as provocateurs who draw out and question and often contradict what their more formal counterparts assert about their relationship.
That sense of playfulness extends to a raft of supporting characters, all played by the capable duo of Max Macke and Durwood Murray, who often comment and argue comically on the roles they’re forced into. (And it must be said: Macke, a remarkable impressionist, might sound more like Ronald Reagan than even Reagan did.)