Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Country Wife

Grant Davis as Harcourt, Abbi Hawk as Alithea, and Chris Johnston as Sparkish in The Country Wife. / Courtesy of ASC/Lauren D. Rogers.
The Country Wife, a play by William Wycherley, is a play tailor-made for the ASC's Actors' Renaissance Season (and the ASC period). It is a bawdy, humorous, sexual innuendo fest that the actors push to the limit and wring out every ounce of laughter from the crowds. This was by far my favorite production of the Ren Season, and while very long for a comedy, it is a terrific play.

Benjamin Curns devilishly plays the lead role, Harry Horner, a man who seeks to place horns on as many men as possible. In order to score even more with the women of town and country, Horner has a quack doctor (played by a well rested Rene Thornton, Jr.- seems like he has hours between scenes) spread rumors that Horner is impotent thanks to a trip to France. Daniel Kennedy, playing Sir Jasper Fidget, takes special delight in heckling Horner concerning his supposed malady. Kennedy is brilliant in his comic mannerisms. Little does he know that he's being cuckolded as Horner pursues Fidget's wife, played by the amazing Allison Glenzer, and his sister Dainty Fidget (Ronald Peet in drag with blonde wig), and their friend Mistress Squeamish (the delightful Sarah Fallon). The main object of Horner's affections is Margery Pinchwife (a wonderful performance by Tracie Thomason- the oranges scene will be long remembered in Staunton), the naive wife of John Harrell's Jack Pinchwife. Harrell, of course does a splendid job as the soon to be cuckolded Pinchwife.

Chris Johnston and Abbi Hawk are the show stealers of this production. Johnston as the "Pshaw!" blaring fop Sparkish and Hawk as Pinchwife's sister and Sparkish's fiancee Alithea who falls for Horner's friend Frank Harcourt (a charming performance by Grant Davis). Hawk has great comic timing and has hilarious facial expressions (she was especially funny during set changes). Johnston is always excellent in roles like this and he definitely delivers in this production all the way down to his costume choices (his white, pink topped dress shoes are amazing). Another personal favorite performance was Gregory Jon Phelps as Old Lady Squeamish, the grandmother of Mistress Squeamish. The mannerisms were perfect for an offended old lady and the one time I sat on stage for this production I was moved off of my stool with a cane shot.

I saw this production three times and wish I had seen it more. The play definitely grew on me, and by the third performance it had become one of my top ten non-Shakespeare ASC productions. Several of the people I regularly see at the Blackfriars told me it was their favorite production and were surprised at how much they liked it. Hopefully we'll get the chance to see it again someday.

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