Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review of Night Must Fall
On James Noone's expansive and elegant set, three con artistsSubtle (David Manis), Face (Michael Milligan), and Dol Common (Kate Skinner)The Alchemist set up shop to entrap Londoners looking for an easy payoff. While alchemy, the supposed transformation of base metal into gold, is the basis of the scam, Kahn's updated view touches on more recent forms of belief, such as feng shui and praying for prosperity. (Interestingly, one line that seems a reference to contemporary political discourse actually comes directly from Jonson's original.)
Jonson created a vivid gallery of people willing to make fools of themselves for the sake of fortune, and this production gives them a few modern tweaks. Shopkeeper Abel Drugger (Jeff Biehl) is a spaced-out hippie for whom "tobacco" is a euphemism; the pompous minister Tribulation Wholesome (Timothy Thomas) has the ripe enunciation and blinding white suit of a television preacher; and Sir Epicure Mammon (David Sabin), a rich man seeking godlike powers, is costumed to resemble a familiar icon of American excess.
Milligan is a manic delight as Subtle, who shifts from one disguise to another (in costumes designed by Murell Horton) to meet the needs of each client: by turns he's a mad scientist with enormous goggles (assisted by Manis as the requisite hunchbacked, German-accented servant), a tie-dyed guru, an Irish priest, a southern Bible-thumper and a karate master. As Dol, prostitute and co-conspirator, Skinner brings her full-bodied appeal to costumes ranging from the lascivious to the unearthly.
Among the rest of the cast, Sabin demonstrates his eagerness to go far beyond the point of dignity; Nick Cordileone gets to show off as a law clerk who dreams of gambling success; and Alex Morf is adorable as a schoolboy with short pants and big ambitions.
Shakespeare Theatre Company