Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Beaux Stratagem

The romantic Dorinda (Sophia Nachmanoff), left, attempts to cheer up the grumpily
married Kate Sullen (Megan Abbanat) in Acme's free comedy “The Beaux' Stratagem.”

Restoration comedy, like George Farquhar’s “The Beaux Stratagem,” has always been something the Acme Theatre Company does very well.

Farquhar wrote the comedy in 1707. In 1939, it was partially adapted by Thornton Wilder (an Acme-favorite playwright), but abandoned with the outbreak of World War II. In 2000, Wilder’s 57 page manuscript was rediscovered and, with the permission of the Wilder Estate, Ken Ludwig (“Lend Me a Tenor,” “Sullivan and Gilbert,” etc.) completed the work.

The Memorial Day weekend productions, which are free, have long been a gift to the city of Davis for all of its support of the young people’s theater company — the oldest in Davis (at 39 years, it beats Davis Musical Theatre Company by a year).

The current production is colorful, energetic and just plain silly. Sophia Nachmanoff has outdone herself with costumes that are deliciously over the top, particularly for Lady Bountiful, in an oversized hoop skirt so big and so broad that moving in and around the stage was particularly tricky, but done adroitly by Gavin Pinnow.

No one is credited for makeup design, but the white-face, bejeweled look for everyone was unique and fun, but with some male actors played females and vice versa, sometimes made it difficult to tell who was who.

The fun begins before the show actually starts, as the costumed actors invite the audience to join them in dancing to a Madonna tune. As the music ends, the performers run to the stage and the performance begins.

Jack Archer (Cory McCutcheon) and Tom Aimwell (Cypher McIlrath) are two young gentlemen who have squandered their respective fortunes and now plan to travel through small towns, entrap young heiresses and steal their money. To start, Aimwell poses as a gentlemen and Archer as his servant, the plan to switch on and off as they move to different towns.

They settle in at the inn run by Boniface (Kira Cubbage), whose own daughter Cherry (Sam Cubbage) is attracted to both Tom and Jack, but fears they are highwaymen, come to rob Lady Bountiful’s house

But right off the bat, the men’s plan goes awry when, in the first town, Tom actually falls in love with Dorinda (Nachmanoff), the daughter of the wealthy Lady Bountiful, who specializes in herbal medicine and amputation. She attributes her successes to the fact that her “patients” are so satisfied they never return.

At the same time, Jack makes friends with Mrs. Kate Sullen (Megan Abbanat) whose husband, Squire Sullen (Peter Syverson), is a cruel drunk who actually despises his wife.

In a parallel plot, Tom has a given the box containing the men’s last £200 to Boniface for safekeeping, unaware that he is part of a group of highwaymen, including Hounslow (Odie Lopez) and Bagshot (Emma Larson), who themselves plan to rob Lady Bountiful.

As the plot advances, it focuses more and more on Kate and Jack, who fall in love and want to marry, were it not that she is married, a situation eventually solved by the arrival of her brother, Sir Charles Freeman (Elie Bukowski), and all live happily ever after.

This production has many strong performances and the direction of Emily Henderson kept the action moving crisply at all times.

This is a great way to spend a Memorial Day weekend. Churros and other goodies are available to snack on at intermission and blankets available to rent if the weather turns cold.

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