I just saw this advertised today in the New York Times. This play was Peg Woffington’s big break in London, in the role of Sir Harry Wildair. It’s not a cross-dressed part: she was simply cast as the male lead, with legendary success.
A wealthy heir and avowed man of pleasure, Harry courts the disreputable Lady Lurewell and the virtuous Angellica, whom he comically mistakes for a prostitute. The Life of James Quin, Comedien tells a much-repeated anecdote:
Upon her coming off the stage, in the character of Sir Harry Wildair, [Woffington] said, with no little triumph, ‘Lord, I believe the whole house thinks I am a man.’ – ‘By G-d, Madam,’ says [James Quin], ‘half the house knows the contrary.’
William Hogarth later painted her in this role. Perhaps inspired by her success as Wildair, Woffington went on to play Lothario in The Fair Penitent.
The Constant Couple
by George Farquhar
Directed by Jean RandichNovember 13- December 23
George Farquhar’s youthful comedy The Constant Couple (1699) invites us into a London teeming with colorful characters. Steadfast Colonel Standard wants nothing more than to win the charming Lady Lurewell. But his way is littered with scheming rivals, troublesome fops, and bumbling rustics, all of whom seem to have some claim on his lady love. Combining all the wicked joy of the jaded Restoration stage with the “novel” notion that faithfulness and integrity might have their uses too, The Constant Couple illuminates a world merrily careening between deceit and honesty, cynicism and hope—between the follies of the past, and the glorious possibilities of the future.