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Veanne Cox and Christopher Invaar in the Shakesepare Theatre production of The Beaux' Stratagem; PC: Carol Rosegg


`Stratagem' a Riot

By Roger Atwood


Dec. 12, 2006

George Farquhar's ``The Beaux' Stratagem'' is a pitch-perfect sendup of English country manners that most people probably have never heard of. The Shakespeare Theater Company production is such a delight that 2 1/2 hours of scheming and seduction glide by like a half-hour sitcom. It's over much too soon.

Two London gentlemen come to the countryside looking for rich fiancees. After much deception and many plot twists, they find them -- sort of. That's all you need to know about the story. The rest is pure pleasure.

The script used by artistic director Michael Kahn, who directed, draws on an adaptation of Farquhar's text by Thornton Wilder that was itself adapted by contemporary playwright Ken Ludwig.

Purists might balk at their changes, and with some grounds. I saw Farquhar's original and remember it as a black comedy about class envy and misery in marriage.

But misery is not Shakespeare Theater's strongest suit. Its versions of Richard Sheridan's ``The Rivals,'' Ben Jonson's ``The Silent Woman'' and many Shakespearean comedies have confirmed this downtown Washington theater's skill at mounting witty, fleet-footed farces.

Its record on serious drama is uneven. But with a production as sparkling as this, who's complaining?

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Floyd King, Julia Coffey and Christian Conn in the Shakespeare Theatre Company production of The Beaux' Stratagem; PC:Carol Rosegg

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