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'Charm' thoughtful, illuminating

Jayne Luke, left, Robert Scott Smith, Carianne H. Jones, standing, Cheryl Gaysunas, Nicholas Wuehrmann, Max Robinson and Brik Berkes star in SLAC's "Charm."
Jayne Luke, left, Robert Scott Smith, Carianne H. Jones, standing, Cheryl Gaysunas, Nicholas Wuehrmann, Max Robinson and Brik Berkes star in SLAC's "Charm."
Jason Olson, Deseret News

"CHARM," through May 9, Salt Lake Acting Company (801-363-7522); running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes (no intermission)

Have you ever felt misunderstood? Ever felt like someone likes and appreciates only part of you, but not all of you? Ever felt left out? Unattractive? Unwanted?

So did Margaret Fuller — a 19th century women's right activist and the first of many things: the first female foreign correspondent, the first woman allowed to enter the Harvard Library, the first female journalist at the New York Daily Tribune and the first female editor of The Dial.

Fuller, whom history has sadly forgotten, is the subject of Kathleen Cahill's "Charm," running now at Salt Lake Acting Company.

Perhaps Fuller's biggest contribution is the way she inspired and moved some of our country's most beloved writers — Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

"Miss Fuller is a remarkable woman — mentally and spiritually remarkable. It's sometimes hard to believe she is a woman," Emerson says.

Often regarded as more masculine than her fellow females, Fuller yearned for intimacy, love and human connection.

Using excerpts from the actual writings of these historical figures, mixed in with surprising modern day-isms, Cahill's "Charm" is a beautiful, fantastical telling of a woman ahead of her time.

Director Meg Gibson's cast is wonderful, shining just the right light on Cahill's imaginative script.

Wearing Fuller's corset, a symbolic representation of how restricted society can be and how much is dictated or expected of us by merely our gender, Cheryl Gaysunas is outstanding, capturing the loneliness, the yearning, the intrigue, the bravery and charm of Fuller.

The only thing better than watching her interact with her castmates are the moments she talks aside to the audience. She's funny, endearing and delightful.

Her cast of fellow historical figures is just as engaging — Brik Berkes, Jay Perry, Max Robinson, Nicholas Wuehrmann, Robert Scott Smith, Jayne Luke and Carianne H. Jones — a very solid ensemble.

Helping to further create the magical feel of the piece is Keven Myhre's simple set, which allows the actions to happen anywhere from a pond to a library; James A Craig's beautiful light design, which reproduces moonlight, morning, night and wartime; Brenda Van Der Weil's costumes, which are as 19th century as they are modern; and Cynthia L. Kehr Rees' sound design.

"Charm" is really a lovely piece — a solid production for this world premiere. Not only will you find yourself wondering about the past, you might leave with a question or two about who we are, or who we are expected to be, today and in the future.

Sensitivity rating: Suggestive situations, one use of the R-rated curse word.

e-mail: ehansen@desnews.com