Some actors routinely do such extraordinary work onstage that we can be misled by the seeming ease of their virtuosity. Sha Cage is such a performer.
Days after winning the Ivey Award for her outstanding performance as a fighter pilot in “Grounded” last year, she opened in two shows: an all-female version of “Henry IV, Pt. 1,” the Shakespeare history drama nimbly staged by Michelle Hensey for Ten Thousand Things theater company, and “U/G/L/Y,” a compelling, self-crafted solo rumination on the psychic costs of beauty standards.
The two productions gave Cage a chance to show audiences the range of her gifts. In the history play, she depicted Prince Hal, the royal heir who reluctantly becomes a warrior in feud-torn England. Cage brought the expected martial mien to the part, stepping up with formidable strength and an aura of command as her destiny dawned on her. At the same time, she displayed emotional honesty and wit.
She brought those same traits to “U/G/L/Y,” staged by her capable husband, E.G. Bailey. Performing to live music and against a video installation, her movement was dancer-like as she bore witness to the struggle against constricting beauty standards.
In both shows, Cage used her theatrical instrument to convey us to a unique time and place.