William Wycherley's The Country Wife, written in 1675, is widely considered to be the most studied and revived comedy from the Restoration period. Initially banned for its bawdiness for close to 200 years, the play’s themes of money, marriage and sexual intrigue nonetheless still strike a chord of universal appeal with contemporary audiences. This proves to be no less true of the handsome production by HoNkBarK! and Vital Theatre Company.
The story centers on Harry Horner,
whose reputation as a seducer has become so widely known in
Viewed from today’s perspective, none of the naughtiness of The Country Wife shocks or even titillates as it might have once upon a time and so, much of its power is lost. However, fans of the genre will certainly be pleased with this colorful production filled with visual delights and strong performances. Director John Ficarra has managed a large cast on a small stage to great effect and keeps things moving along through a three hour performance; but the flowery prose can be tricky to follow and the character and plot twists difficult to keep track of for newcomers to the play. The design team members are the true stars of this production, with Karl A. Ruckdeschel’s opulent costumes popping out of Brian Garber’s wine colored set, decorated with gilded picture frames. The production is a feast for the eyes and helps to make the play much more attractive than its ancient text would otherwise seem.
There is a fine cast of fifteen actors and musicians bringing the characters to life, headed by Richard Haratine as Horner. As the comically flamboyant Sparkish, Brian Linden delivers outrageousness on a silver platter and punctuates it with biting diction and a swish of silk. Kristin Price as Margery Pinchwife (the “country wife” of the title) handles the most important female role with exuberance and plenty of charm. Maurice Edwards, Linda Jones, Janna Kefalas, Dolores Kenan, Steve Kuhel, Laura LeBleu, Robert Lehrer, Ray A. Rodriguez, Bridgette Shaw, Joan Slavin and Mike Yahn make up the talented ensemble. A threesome of musicians adds live music for flavor, raising the production’s artistry above the typical showcase presentation.
If Restoration comedy is not your cup of tea, this museum quality production will not sway your opinion. But, for those fans hungry for a little naughty farce of 1675, this little jewel should appease your appetite.
Copyright 2007 Michael D. Jackson
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