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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

The Way of the World

Also see Susan's review of Citizen Josh

Way of the World
Veanne Cox and Christopher Innvar
William Congreve's 1700 play The Way of the World is famous as one of the greatest Restoration comedies—a genre focusing on libertines and cuckolds, self-absorbed fops and self-proclaimed moralists, farcical shenanigans and elaborate wordplay. Michael Kahn's sumptuous production at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington does a good job of clarifying the labyrinthine plot, anchored by the dynamic pairing of Veanne Cox and Christopher Innvar in the central roles.

Cox and Innvar first demonstrated their chemistry two years ago in the Shakespeare Theatre production of another Restoration comedy, The Beaux' Stratagem. Here they strike sparks as Millamant, an heiress both self-possessed and beautiful, navigating among her many admirers and negotiating for personal autonomy within marriage, and Mirabell, the sincere suitor who needs to overcome numerous obstacles to win her.

Kahn has ably streamlined the ensuing complications, which mainly involve the fact that Millamant will lose half her inheritance if she marries without the consent of her aunt and guardian, Lady Wishfort (pronounced "wish-for-it"). Nancy Robinette gives another peerless comic performance as an outwardly censorious woman whose inner coquette keeps bursting out at inappropriate moments.

Jane Greenwood has used the many shades of green, symbol of both money and jealousy, as the basis of her extravagant costumes. The aspiring wit Anthony Witwoud (Floyd King) wears an outlandish ensemble in mint green with gold braid and a green sash shot with gold thread; the malicious Mrs. Marwood (Deanne Lorette) has a slash of dark red in the midst of her green gown; and Lady Wishfort attempts to charm a supposed suitor in an absurd heap of vividly colored swags and ruffles. Scenic designer Wilson Chin sets off the costumes by devising a neutral setting with neo-Classical elements, mostly off-white with touches of gold, and a park signified by stylized trees that resemble large green lollipops.

The entire cast shines in this production, both as individuals and as an ensemble. Highlights include the bickering between King as Witwoud and J. Fred Shiffman as Petulant, a Tweedledum and Tweedledee trying to follow the city's fashions; Doug Rees as Witwoud's rough-edged half brother, a bumpkin with muddy boots and no sense of tact; and Todd Scofield as a servant masquerading as a nobleman, plummy accent and all.

Shakespeare Theatre Company
The Way of the World
September 30th November 16th
By William Congreve
Fainall, in love with Mrs. Marwood: Andrew Long
Mirabell, in love with Mrs. Millamant: Christopher Innvar
Anthony Witwoud, wooer of Mrs. Millamant: Floyd King
Petulant, wooer of Mrs. Millamant: J. Fred Shiffman
Sir Wilfull Witwoud, half brother to Witwoud and nephew to Lady Wishfort: Doug Rees
Waitwell, servant to Mirabell: Todd Scofield
Lady Wishfort: Nancy Robinette
Mrs. Millamant, niece to Lady Wishfort and in love with Mirabell: Veanne Cox
Mrs. Marwood, in love with Fainall: Deanne Lorette
Mrs. Fainall, daughter to Lady Wishfort, wife to Fainall, former lover of Mirabell: Barbara Garrick
Foible, servant to Lady Wishfort: Colleen Delany
Mincing, servant to Mrs. Millamant: Julie-Ann Elliott
Peg, servant to Lady Wishfort: Elizabeth Jernigan
Betty, attendant at the Chocolate House: Stacey Cabaj
Servant to Mirabell: Jeffrey Scott
Messenger: Peter Boyer
Coachman: Steven K. Hoochuk
Footman to Lady Wishfort: Peter Boyer
Directed by Michael Kahn
Lansburgh Theatre, 450 7th St. N.W.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or www.shakespearetheatre.org


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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