Saturday, October 6, 2012

Theatre review: "The Rivals" at CMU- Sunday 7th October 2012

Starting its new season the CMU School of Drama offers a remarkable cast of students whose talents and skills equal professionals. They shine and shimmer in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s 18th Century comedy of manners The Rivals. No doubt much of their appeal has been stimulated and shaped by visiting English director Annie Tyson. She has evoked thoroughly meaningful interpretations of the text and characters creating an ensemble full of style. And to make the best of the words, evidently she has not emphasized genuine English accents, but rather just suggestions, wisely giving more time and intention to essentials.

The play can be a challenge not only to the actors but also to audiences, because not a great deal of substance emerges and it all comes engulfed in elaborate talk over more than three hours. Considerable substance can be found in the excellent program book.

Looking at the character names one might think that this is a satire. Indeed it could be, although it is not played that way but, rather, interpreted with earnest sincerity. This gives it constant charm but not that many laughs. There are such people as Captain Jack Absolute and his father Sir Anthony as well as Lydia Languish with whom Jack is most devotedly in love. His rivals for her affection are a country gentleman Bob Acres and a combative Irishman Sir Lucius O’Trigger. Add to them Lydia’s guardian aunt Mrs. Malaprop, whose name has ever since become a cinnamon for people with constabulary malfunctions. Also part of the folderol is Jack’s sometimes foolish friend Mr. Faulkland; he’s in love with Lydia’s friend Julia.

Much concerns the wooing amid the social whirl of the newly emerging fashionable vacation city of Bath.

In front of a simple backdrop representing imposing interconnected Bath buildings, director Tyson calls for simple prop and furniture embellishments to represent interiors. Consequently a lot depends on her performers to make otherwise empty space alive. They do that extremely well with body language totally right for such people of the period. And they do it with impeccable timing and wonderful reactions.

The most impressive performances come from Nick Rehberger as Captain Jack Absolute and Lachlan McKinney as his father. Rehberger’s polish and vitality make it look as if he has been playing this kind of material for years, rather than being a student. Meanwhile McKinney gives the older man the perfect mannerisms, including a way of seeming always off-balance, affected by gout with a simple suggestion: a constantly bent foot.

Lydia is played by Ginna Le Vine; she has a delightful ditzy quality which she never overdoes. I was also impressed with what Dylan Schwartz-Wallach did with Sir Lucius O’Trigger, another example of making memorable a thoroughly distinctive personality. 

But while these especially stand out, the rest of the cast equals them in conveying director Tyson’s exceptional conception of the play. They always keep it alive despite it length.

The Rivals by Richard Brinsley Sheridan frolics only through next Saturday, October 13th at Philip Chosky Theater in Purnell Center on the CMU campus. 412/268-2407

No comments:

Post a Comment