‘Nell Gwynn’ Makes East Coast Premiere at Folger

A Timely Story of A Remarkable Woman

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Allison Luff plays Nell Gwynn in the East Coast premiere of the play about a remarkable woman in Reformation England. Brittany Diliberto Courtesy Folger Theatre

Folger Theatre continues its season of characters who “shake the world” with Nell Gwynn, the Olivier Award-winning 2016 comedy from London about one of the first women to perform on the English stage.

Written by British playwright Jessica Swale (Blue Stockings), Nell Gwynn was commissioned by Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, where it premiered, followed by a celebrated 2016 run on the West End that earned an Olivier Award for Best New Comedy.

Robert Richmond (Macbeth, Timon of Athens, Henry V at the Folger) will direct the East Coast premiere of the play at Folger Theatre (201 E. Capitol St. SE).

Behold the year of the woman: 1665. Nell Gwynn tells the story of a remarkable historical figure—an orange seller from the London streets of Drury Lane who employs her charm and wits to become the darling of the Restoration theater. Nell discovers that one of her biggest fans is none other than King Charles II, who brings her to his court as a favorite mistress. Swale’s sparkling portrait of the most unlikely of heroines shines a spotlight on the power of an amazing woman of her—or any—age.

“The rags-to-riches story of Nell Gwynn is an important and timely one,” said Robert Richmond. “Her tenacity, wit, and honesty changed the theatrical landscape forever and won her a place in history.”

“The production at the Folger aims to explore the core of her humanity along with captivating the audience with a heartfelt and entertaining story.”

Alison Luff makes her D.C. theater debut, playing Nell Gwynn, the feisty citrus-seller who soon captures the hearts of English audiences as an actor in the King’s Company. The cast of Nell Gwynn also features Christopher Dinolfo as Edward Kynaston, who had previously played the women’s parts and adamantly opposes women on the English stage; Catherine Flye as Nancy, Nell’s personal dresser and confidante; R.J. Foster as Charles II, the king who is smitten with Nell’s bold spirit; Quinn Franzen as Charles Hart, the leading actor of the King’s Company; Michael Glenn as the Company’s resident playwright, John Dryden; and Nigel Gore as Thomas Killigrew, the seasoned Company manager.

Nell Gwynn is on stage from January 29 through March 10, 2019. Tickets are available online at http://www.folger.edu/theatre or by calling the Folger Box Office at (202) 544-7077.