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|A CurtainUp DC Review
The Beaux' Stratagem
Consent is law enough to set you free.
Offering up a world premiere, the Shakespeare Theatre Company is
delighting audiences with a newly adapted Ken Ludwig piece about
deceitful lovers, highway robbers and romantic hijinks. The Beaux'
Stratagem was first written by George Farquhar in 1707 and then
later partially adapted by Thornton Wilder in 1939. However with the
outbreak of World War II, Wilder abandoned the project after finishing
half of the script (approximately the first act). Then in 2000, Wilder's
handwritten, 57-page manuscript was discovered and shortly thereafter,
Ken Ludwig began work on finishing the piece.
J. Coffey, N. Robinette, C. Conn and C. Innvar
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
Once Ludwig contacted Michael Kahn about the project, the Shakespeare
Theatre became involved. Approximately two years ago a reading of The
Beaux' Stratagem was held and then slated for production in the
company's current season. Rewrites, changes and adaptations continued to
happen -- even during rehearsal and previews week as scenes and dialogue
were being changed and restructured. The final product is a tightly
drafted, nicely balanced, bawdy farce that makes fun of love, marriage,
religion, money, medicine and high society.
The story may seem familiar, the end is obvious, but -- as in life --
it's the journey that matters. So, while this is hardly thought-provoking
theatre, it is a wonderful, campy romp that will have you laughing in
your seat for over two hours.
The basic plot: Two rakish, down-on-their-luck gentlemen, Jack
Archer and Tom Aimwell, conspire to marry well and split the proceeds of
their wives' dowries. Stopping in the small, country hamlet of
Lichfield, the two mercenary, but good-hearted gents begin to search for
an appropriately naïve, young heiress. This they find in the young Miss
Dorinda Bountiful, who lives with her brother Sullen, sister-in-law Kate
and her mother, the Lady Bountiful.
While staying at the local inn, Jack and Tom meet the innkeeper Boniface
and his young daughter Cherry. It's here that mistaken identities occur
as Cherry and Boniface decide that Jack and Tom are novice highwaymen.
Enter the Minister Gloss, the military chaplain and also the leader of
the local highwaymen gang who uses the inn as a hideout for his cache of
As Tom falls madly in love with Dorinda (and she with him) and Jack
falls in love with Kate Sullen (and she with him), Gloss and his men
plan to rob the Bountiful home -- much to the distress of Cherry who is
the goddaughter of Lady Bountiful. As the robbery plan hatches, Gloss
and his gang plan their retirement on the Bountiful jewels; Kate's
brother Sir Charles Freeman arrives in answer to her distressed letters
about her horrible marriage to the ever-drunken Sullen; and Jack and Tom
vow to save the Bountiful women from harm. It's all a fun, uproarious
evening of comedy and mayhem.
Director Michael Kahn has crafted a well-timed comedy, where every line
seems to bring a guffaw from some part of the audience. Set designer
James Kronzer's elaborately spinning set creates three wonderfully
distinct backdrops for the action. Robert Perdziola's costumes are on
target with a bit of comic flare. And fight choreographer Paul Dennhardt
has created an elaborate seven-person sword fight which is a highlight
of the production.
The large cast has several standouts. Christopher Innvar is a delight as
the rakish Jack Archer -- you don't trust him, but you still like him
and might even loan him some cash. Veanne Cox makes every line spoken by
Kate Sullen seem like an acid tinged arrow directed at the institution
of marriage or her husband Mister Sullen. As her unhappy spouse, Ian
Bedford creates a loveable lug who you hope finds his perfect bottle of
ale. Nancy Robinette is a gem as the local medical "genius"
Lady Bountiful. As she gleefully fondles a pair of vice grips and
marvels at her great skill as a country doctor, you understand why her
patients never seem to return.
Rick Foucheux' Gloss mirrors the dualities of ministry and robbery very
nicely and harkens to today's televangelists. Hugh Nees as the
manservant Scrub adds comedic flair to every scene he appears, while
Floyd King's quick turn as the easily slighted French priest Foigard is
a pleasure to watch. And as the young lovers Tom and Dorinda, Christian
Conn and Julia Coffey are equally matched as big-hearted rake and not
so naïve debutante.
This world premiere is quite a treat and with its elaborately twirling
set, great cast and wonderful bawdy humor The Beaux' Stratagem
becomes a delight that is not to be missed.
The Beaux' Stratagem
by George Farquhar, adapted by Thornton Wilder and Ken Ludwig
Directed by Michael Kahn
with Ian Bedford, Field Blauvelt, Julia Coffey, Christian Conn, Veanne
Cox, Dan Crane, Colleen Delany, Drew Eshelman, Rick Foucheux, Meghan
Grady, Daniel Harray, Christopher Innvar, Maria Kelly, Floyd King, Diane
Ligon, David Murgittroyd, Hugh Nees,
Nancy Robinette, Anne Stone, Matthew Stucky, and Nick Vienna
Set Design: James Kronzer
Costume Design: Robert Perdziola
Lighting Design: Joel Moritz
Sound Design: Martin Desjardins
Choreographer: Peter Pucci
Fight Director: Paul Dennhardt
Running Time: 2 hours and 20 minutes with one intermission
Shakespeare Theatre Company, 450 7th Street NW
TUE-WED@7:30, THUR-SAT@8, SAT-SUN@2, SUN@7:30; $19-$76.25
Opening 11/07/06, closing 12/31/06
Reviewed by Rich See based on 11/15/06 performance
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