Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Round House Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of Familiar, Aubergine, and The Great Society

Jennifer Mendenhall, Beth Hylton, Susan Lynskey,
and Kate Fahy

Photo by Kaley Etzkorn
In the 1980s, the United Kingdom was overseen by two powerful women, Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Handbagged, Moira Buffini's play receiving its U.S. premiere at Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland, takes a witty and vividly nonrealistic look at the interactions between the two women.

Director Indhu Rubasingham, who also directed the original British production, plays up the theatricality of Buffini's script. In the playwright's concept, the queen (Jennifer Mendenhall), now 91 years old, and the Iron Lady (Kate Fahy), who died in 2013, have come together on the stage of this theater to recount the agreements and battles of several decades earlier. Adding a second layer is the presence of the two women's younger selves (Beth Hylton and Susan Lynskey respectively), who act out some of the same stories, sometimes with notable differences in the way they tell them. The four actresses give thoughtful performances individually, as two pairs, and as an ensemble.

Part of the drama comes from the contrasting attitudes of the two women, one who was born to reign, the other who made her own way—determined that a woman could do anything she wanted to but disparaging the organized women's movement. Despite her middle-class upbringing, Thatcher considers herself the queen's peer in every way. For her part, Elizabeth appreciates that Thatcher earned an Oxford degree in chemistry and later a law degree, while her own education came from her governess and tutors.

Thatcher served from 1979 to 1990, a time of upheaval and uncertainty about the role of government in the United Kingdom. Elizabeth sees people as the motivating force of society, while Thatcher considers society a framework in which the population fits. The script goes into detail about British history of the period, including the Irish Republican Army attack that killed the queen's cousin, Lord Mountbatten; the war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands; the year-long coal miners' strike; and the rise of tabloid journalism in the 1980s.

Actors Cody LeRoy Wilson and John Lescault play all the supporting roles: Lescault's characterizations include Thatcher's doting husband Denis, Ronald Reagan, and Rupert Murdoch, while Wilson's roles include a painfully thin Nancy Reagan in a red suit. (Richard Kent, who designed the nonrepresentational set that suggests a three-dimensional Union Jack, also designed the witty costumes.)

Round House Theatre
January 31st - March 3rd, 2018
By Moira Buffini
T: Kate Fahy
Q: Jennifer Mendenhall
Mags: Susan Lynskey
Liz: Beth Hylton
Actor 1: Cody LeRoy Wilson
Actor 2: John Lescault
Directed by Indhu Rubasingham
4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda, MD
Ticket Information: 240-564-1100 or