Sunday, February 5, 2012

Fletcher and Beaumont's Philaster, or Love Lies a-Bleeding

Allison Glenzer in The Malcontent, 2011.  Photo by Tommy Thompson.
The American Shakespeare Center has a long and successful history with productions of plays by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher, most notably A King and No King, and The Knight of the Burning Pestle. The ASC is currently reviving Beaumont and Fletcher's tragicomedy Philaster, or Love Lies a-Bleeding and the result is much more comedy and much less tragedy. If you enjoy a good deal of laughter with your "tragedy," make sure to check this one out.

Greg Phelps is terrific as the titular character, Philaster, a Sicilian whose throne has been usurped by a Calabrian regally portrayed by Rene Thornton, Jr. Philaster has not been banished, and has a place in the King's court, much to the King's displeasure. Philaster is so popular among the people that the King cannot banish or kill him, posing many attendant problems for the King. Unfortunately for him, Philaster is in love with the King's daughter, Princess Arethusa (wonderfully played by Sarah Fallon). Because of this, the King decides to force her to marry the Spanish Prince Pharamond (a show stealing performance by Aidan O'Reilly). Of course, Arethusa is secretly in love with Philaster and the two conduct their romance in secret with the assistance of Philaster's serving boy Bellario (played by the superb Miriam Donald). Meanwhile, Pharamond is having an affair with Megra (a wonderful performance by Allison Glenzer). Of course, chaos, hilarity, and deception ensue as plots and confusion are uncovered.

O'Reilly, as Pharamond, really stands out in this production. ASC costume designer Erin West and I debated whether he looked more like Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride or King Charles II: let's go with both. His accent is terrific in its silliness (he even sings one song using it). You can tell he really enjoys the role. Jeremy West also has a moment to remember as a fellow that hearkens back to Falstaff (complete with foolish attendants), and when he came on stage I had to do a double take as I thought it was Rick Blunt! West and Ben Curns also have an outstanding pre-show skit that is not to be missed.

Next up in the Actors' Renaissance Season is Thomas Middleton's A Mad World, My Masters. I always enjoy Middleton's plays, and look forward to seeing this production of the play.

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