Features ‘Stratagem’ a flurry of energy, comedy By Ryan Senaga April 25, 2013 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! COURTESY TONY PISCULLI / TAGJason Kanda and Lacey Perrine Chu in “The Belle’s Strategem.” Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. The Actors’ Group transports us to London circa 1780 with its production of British playwright Hannah Cowley’s “The Belle’s Stratagem.” The winding, twisting machinations of the merry plot make the play an appropriate choice for the theater company because it provides tour de force moments for the actors within the group. The script is streamlined a bit from Cowley’s original production in the late 18th century, so it moves fast and furiously. The belle in question is Letitia Hardy, portrayed by Stephanie Keiko Kong, who is set up to be wed to the rakish Doricourt (Jason Kanda). When he doesn’t meet her with the appropriate sense of awe and admiration the lady expects, she puts into motion a complicated plan to make him fall hopelessly and completely in love and lust with her. Basically, this is “Les Liaisons dangereuses,” only cheerful and very pro-marriage. There are others who get swept up in Miss Hardy’s wicked stratagem. Sir George and Lady Frances Touchwood (Joe Abraham and Victoria Brown-Wilson, respectively) are a married couple constantly fretting about how much time they should be seen together in public. Little do they know, a scoundrel has his eyes on the comely wife. Meanwhile, Lady Frances has a protective guardian angel on her side, the fretful Saville (Shawn A. Thomsen). Mrs. Racket (Lacey Perrine Chu) is a sensual widow who seems to have her nose in everyone’s business, and the poor senior Hardy (Peter Clark), father of the mischievous Letitia, finds that at one point he must pretend to be deceased. Somehow within this tangled web, the question of feminism arises: What is expected of a woman’s character at this particular time in history and level of society? Tony Pisculli directs this marvelous production and large cast within such a confined space and the sparest of sets: just two columns set into the wall, two blue curtains, two doors, a chandelier and a couch. Somehow the scenes dissolve into one another and the performers move in and out with gracefully swishing waistcoats and twirling skirts. Even the pivotal masquerade ball seems plausible on the small stage. Kong is a fireball as Letitia; she’s manipulative, charming, pouty and adept at slapstick — sometimes all at once. Kanda mugs and preens as the wannabe rogue Doricourt. Abraham as Sir George practically has a frothing, couch-jumping nervous breakdown about sexism. Even the various servants are entertaining; there are several serving different masters, but Kaitlin Souza plays them all with a distinct, humorous personality. In fact, all the actors perform admirably with high energy palpable enough to be felt in the neighboring Costco parking lot — which is exactly what the material calls for. “The Belle’s Stratagem” is a delightful costume comedy of early feminism. ______ ‘THE BELLE’S STRATAGEM’’ >>Where: TAG (The Actors’ Group), 650 Iwilei Road, Suite 101 >>When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays through May 12 >>Tickets: $12-$20, all seats $12 on Thursdays >>Info: 722-6941 or www.taghawaii.net Previous Story Carnivorous and proud Next Story Johnson takes risk with role in 'Gain'