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Varlets’ stage ‘Last Reading of Charlotte Cushman’

There’s nothing quite like acting out a death scene to make you feel alive.

That’s at least part of the motivation behind “The Last Reading of Charlotte Cushman,” a one-woman show based on the final days of the famed 19th century actress whose battle with breast cancer sent her into a frenzy of farewell performances.

The local premiere of Carolyn Gage’s play, produced by the female-focused Brazen-Faced Varlets, opens at 2 p.m. Saturday in Rust Belt Books (415 Grant St.) and runs through Oct. 18. It stars Heather Fangsrud under the direction of Lara D. Haberberger.

In her day, though it may seem extraordinary to contemporary audiences, Cushman was a proud and out-of-the-closet lesbian who made no attempt to hide her sexuality from audiences. Audiences, for their part, didn’t care. Cushman was known for playing Shakespeare’s great roles, regardless of gender, and was as comfortable holding Hamlet’s sword or speaking Romeo’s plaintive lines as facing the grim fate of Katherine of Aragon in “Henry VIII.”

Tickets are $15. Visit varlets.org.

– Colin Dabkowski

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