Friday evening, April 5th, we went to the Helfaer Theater on the Marquette University campus to see The Rivals, a Restoration comedy play by Richard Brinsley Sheridan.
The play is set in the spa city of Bath, where heiress Lydia Languish (Cambryelle Getter) is residing with her aunt, Mrs. Malaprop (Brielle Richmond). In defiance of her aunt, Lydia, who is addicted to romantic novels, is receiving the suit of “Ensign Beverly” whom she fondly believes is a penniless orphan. She looks forward with great anticipation to an eventual dramatic elopement with the handsome soldier. (The audience laughed at some of the titles Lydia was reading, but those were all real books of the time, even The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, by Tobias Smollett--). However, Beverly in reality is Captain Jack Absolute (Nick Parrott). Jack is the son of Sir Anthony Absolute (Will Knox), who is both wealthy and very much alive. However, Jack is wooing Lydia by playing to her penchant for “Romance.”
Both young people are revolted when informed by their respective elders that advantageous marriages have been arranged for them. When Jack discovers that Lydia is his intended, he goes along with his father’s plan, subject to the covert consideration that he must try not to let on to Lydia who he really is—his own rival for her hand. In addition, there is the interference of Jack’s friend and neighbor, country squire Bob Acres (Brian Miller), who also fancies himself a rival for Lydia, and Sir Lucius O’Trigger (Dan O’Keefe), a fire-eating Irishman who thinks he’s been having a passionate correspondence with Lydia, no knowing that his letters have been redirected to her aunt by Lydia’s maid, Lucy (Agnes Connolly).
The play also has an entertaining second plot, involving Jack’s good hearted but thickheaded friend, Faulkland (Jackson Hoemann), who loves, and is loved by Sir Anthony’s ward, Julia (Emma Knott), but keeps sabotaging their relationship due to jealousy and self-doubt.
This was a nicely mounted production, with set pieces shifting in and out to form the streets and parks of Bath, and Sir Anthony’s and Mrs. Malaprop’s houses. Costuming and wigs were all very well done. The acting got the story across and was quite funny. The company was very energetic—in fact, too much so at times. Ms. Getter never “languishes” although she should. In the speech where she is bidding farewell to her “most sentimental elopements! — so becoming a disguise! — so amiable a ladder of ropes! — Conscious Moon — four horses — Scotch parson — with such surprise to Mrs. Malaprop — and such paragraphs in the newspapers!” she is sitting bolt upright with indignation, whereas she should have been swooning and lamenting to the skies. Sheridan’s character of Mrs. Malaprop (a lineal descendent of Shakespeare’s Dogberry), with her tortured vocabulary, is one of his most famous creations, and needs to be handled more delicately than the broad comedy would suggest. Ms. Richmond’s unnecessary and rigidly declamatory style of speaking robbed her lines of nuance and quite a few of the gag lines were missed by the audience. On the other hand, her stage presence was wonderful, with her “I am the Queen of all I survey” manner.
This play is a favorite of ours, and we were very glad to see it. We thought the troupe did it justice.This entry was originally posted at https://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/337336.html. Please comment there using OpenID.