Refurbishing the Restoration

The Lucky Chance

By Aphra Behn
Directed by Kathryn Long
Jean Cocteau Repertory
330 Bowery (677-0060)
Non-union production (closes February 28)
Review by Adrienne Onofri

Aphra Behn's work was so shocking in its time that the author was called "a mere harlot who danced through uncleanness." Born in England in 1640, Behn was the first woman to earn a living as a writer. Her plays criticized the social and moral status quo and advocated such radical ideas as feminism and sexual freedom. Yet, like many Restoration comedies written by men, Behn's plays have aged beyond the point of quaintness. They may be best preserved as artifacts of history or literature because they are too silly and predictable to make truly great theatre today.

There were few faults in Jean Cocteau Repertory's production of Behn's The Lucky Chance, but the company may have overstated its case in promoting this as an "uproarious" comedy. Such dated, familiar material can be only so amusing. Any theatre buff has seen this scenario before: lecherous old man chasing an ingenue, that same young woman consorting with a secret lover, somebody in disguise helping to uncover the whole charade. Jean Cocteau Repertory says it wanted to produce The Lucky Chance because of its rare female perspective for a Restoration comedy and its status as an overlooked classic. Take away those two qualities, though, and the antiquated, wordy play that's left is not enough to enthrall late 20th-century audiences.

The Lucky Chance, nonetheless, showcased Jean Cocteau's expertise with period pieces. The set was simple, but the costumes (designed by Susan Soetaert) were lush and detailed. There was even some court dancing interspersed throughout the story (choreographed by Ginger Thatcher).

The Lucky Chance is above all an indictment of arranged marriages. Young Leticia Bredwell has been purchased as a bride for the revoltingly foppish old Sir Feeble Fainwood. Feeble's friend, Sir Cautious Fulbank, also bought himself a bride, Julia, who-like Leticia-is in love with another younger, poorer man. The women and their lovers determine to end this tradition of marital servitude before Leticia must consummate her marriage and Feeble's daughter, Diana, becomes the next victim.

The acting was fine all around. Craig Smith's borderline hammy portrayal of Feeble was the funniest performance in the play, although his talents with such exaggerated characterizations are well-known to Cocteau audiences. Likewise, Elise Stone's performance as Julie was serviceable but too similar to her many other roles as put-upon heroines in Cocteau productions. Among the supporting cast, Abner Genece shone in a variety of small parts, and Neeraj Kochhar was noticeably good as Feeble's servant. (Also featuring Molly Pietz, Harris Berlinsky, Patrick Hall, Kennedy Brown, Amy Fitts, Will Leckie, Christopher Black, and Joseph Menino. Set, Mary Myers; lighting, Brian Aldous; sound, Ellen Mandel.)

Box Score:
Writing 1
Directing 1
Acting 1
Set 1
Costumes 1
Lighting/Sound 1
Copyright 1997 Adrienne Onofri

Return to OOBR Index
Return to Home Page