'The Beaux' Stratagem' fast-paced, farcical fun!
Theatre Jacksonville stages amusing tale of love, deception
By ROGER BULL, The Times-Union
The Beaux' Stratagem has aged well these last 300 years. George Farquhar's 1707 play has been updated and adapted, and on the Theatre Jacksonville stage, it's a thoroughly enjoyable evening of comedy.
The adaptation, begun by Thornton Wilder and then completed by Ken Ludwig, debuted just two years ago. The plot is unchanged from Farquhar's original. Two formerly well-to-do gentlemen (Ryan Feyk and Joseph Walz) have spent their fortunes in the clubs, so they venture into the British countryside to find rich women to marry and keep them in the style to which they've grown accustomed. And along come the inevitable complications of deception and honesty, identity and love.
Feyk is particularly strong as Jack Archer, who pretends to be his friend's servant with a smooth subtlety. Theatre Jax regular Tracy Olin is the best I've seen her as a woman torn between her commitment to her drunken oaf of a husband and her lust for Archer, even though she knows he's a fake.
Alexis Robbins has some of the best lines as Cherry, the landlord's daughter, and she delivers them with a nice comedic touch. Geoffrey King, who shines at everything he does at the theater, stands out again as Gloss, the preacher who moonlights as a thief.
The first act is fun. There are some laughs, though nothing uproarious. Under Geoffrey Kershner's direction, it's quickly paced. The sets were cleverly designed so that not only did they change easily, but the very changing of them also became part of the play.
The pace and laughs pick up in the second act when all the various deceptions begin to collide with the love that has bloomed.
Then Andrew Dickson struts in as the pompous and outrageous Foigard, the French parson who's trying to perform a marriage ceremony, though no one else is cooperating. He's farcical, over-the-top and just hilarious. I half expected him to stand on a castle wall, hurling insults and cows at the Brits below. (That's a Monty Python joke right there.)
Sometimes, it gets to be a bit much. Sandy Spurney draws laughs as Lady Bountiful (an oft-copied name that had its origins in this play.) But as a wealthy woman who dabbled in medicine, her continual shouts of glee at the possibility of amputation was too forced and loud, I thought.
At the heart of it all is the dialogue, a group project by Farquhar, Wilder and Ludwig.
While still keeping the sense and style of the time, the dialogue is easily accessible to the 21st century ear. There are Shakespearean-like musings about the very nature of love and identity, sometimes spoken directly to the audience.
But there's plenty of humor that speaks directly to our own times, as well.