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The Free-Lance Star
Fredericksburg, Virginian


For sheer laugh-out-loud fun, the production of "The Beaux' Stratagem" onstage at the Shakespeare Theatre is hard to beat.

Originally penned by George Farquhar in 1707, this version has been adapted by Thornton Wilder and Ken Ludwig. The contemporary writers have left the action in 18th-century England, retaining the original characters and plot line, but have tightened the script somewhat for modern viewers.

The play centers around Archer and Aimwell, two dissolute spendthrifts who are scouring the countryside for heiresses to marry.

As with any farce, nothing is straightforward. Pretense and subterfuge abound. There are lurking highwaymen, a bountiful lady whose imperfect grasp of the healing arts leads to much hilarity, and another lady trapped in a loveless marriage. The inevitable complications are resolved most improbably.

Artistic director Michael Kahn has put together a superb production.

Christopher Innvar and Veanne Cox strike all kinds of sparks as Archer, the rake who abandons his dreams of wealth to follow his heart, and Kate Sullen, the icy, unhappy wife who is drawn to him like a moth to a flame.
Christian Conn as Aimwell and Julia Coffey as Dorinda are convincingly sweet as the ingenue pair of lovers, and Colleen Delany does a super job as Cherry, the landlord's daughter.

Nancy Robinette, always a hoot in comic parts, doesn't disappoint as Lady Bountiful. She and Hugh Nees, as the servant Scrub, bring down the house with their medical misadventures.

Special kudos have to go to James Kronzer for his double revolving set that slides smoothly from inn to manor house and back. Robert Perdziola's flamboyant costumes are equally stunning.

And Ellen O'Brien deserves special mention for her work as voice coach. Everyone in the cast managed a credible English accent throughout the entire play, although Innvar was not always able to differentiate vocally between the servant he was supposed to be playing and the gentleman he really was.

Farquhar, Wilder and Ludwig all had such a good time skewering the institution of marriage and society's double standards regarding the appropriation of others' goods--highwaymen are punished, fortune hunters rewarded--that laughter is the only possible reaction. One can even hope that true love has reformed the rakes so they won't squander their newly acquired fortunes the way they did their previous funds.
By all means, go and see it.

To reach LUCIA ANDERSON: 540/374-5405

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