“Pretty, Witty Nell” Prances yet Stumbles

By Ernest KearneyRyan J-W Smith is a known and respected quality among long time Fringers; admired for such productions as MacDeth!, his wacky and wonderful word fest that reworked The Tragedy of Macbeth into the silliest of romps with swordplay and men in miniskirts.

Smith himself is an intelligent and sparkling talent, but Pretty, Witty Nell, onstage at the Broadwater Main Stage during Fringe 2019, is more problematic in that the intelligence overwhelms the sparkle. Acceptable in classrooms, risky in theaters.

The show centers on Nell Gwyn (1650-1687) who rose from poverty and prostitution to consort of Charles II (1630 – 1685); who returned to England and restored the monarchy after the death of Oliver Cromwell, the man who had executed his father Charles I.

That is likely the longest history lesson most Americans have ever had on the Restoration – a fascinating period of British history that produced a host of great writers, introduced actresses onto the English speaking stage and gave the world some truly amazing coiffures.

Smith and his Nell (Melanie Johnson) do an admirable job of telling the history of this bright and effervescent period, but in doing so the fun suffers. Also, alas, the American ear has a hard time twigging out the cockney accent and so a good amount of the script’s wit is lost on them.   Silver Medal (via The TVolution)

A solid and skillful staging nevertheless with fine performances by both Smith and Johnson.



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Pretty Witty, Nell

playing during The Fringe at

The Broadwater (Main Stage)

1076 Lillian Way.

For Complete Show Information: http://hff19.org/6078

For Events, Plays and Other Fun Fringe News and Info: https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/

Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. Kearney remains focused on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. His stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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