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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

The Gaming Table

Also see Susan's review of Red

Gaming Table
Tonya Beckman Ross and Julie Jesneck
In conjunction with the Folger Shakespeare Library's exhibition dedicated to women writers of the 1500s through the 1700s, the Folger Theatre has restored to the stage a little-remembered Restoration comedy by a female playwright. The Gaming Table, adapted from Susanna Centlivre's 1705 play The Basset Table, is a rollicking story of the gambles men and women take for love and money, given a stylish production by director Eleanor Holdridge and a talented cast.

Restoration plays—the term refers to the period after Charles II was restored to the English throne in 1660—are known for their witty and risqué language and convoluted plots. Centlivre offers a slightly different perspective: while comedies from this period are famous for their ladies of fashion, fops, rakes and clever servants, she created four leading ladies with unique personalities and goals.

Lady Reveller (Julie Jesneck), a youthful widow, enjoys basset (a card-based gambling game that could be responsible for sudden fortunes and bankruptcies) and hosts the game nightly in the London house she shares with her crotchety uncle Sir Richard Plainman (Michael Willis) and Sir Richard's daughter Valeria (Emily Trask), a scientist. Lady Lucy (Katie deBuys), Lady Reveller's cousin, finds gambling morally problematic but still admires one of the regular players, supercilious Sir James Courtly (Michael Milligan). And Mrs. Sago (Tonya Beckman Ross), the overly ornamented wife of a merchant (Darius Pierce), loves the game and schemes to cover her losses.

Holdridge has brought together these diverse characters, and their skilled portrayers, into a harmonious unit. Ross captivates in her towering hairdo and dress ornamented with animal-print fabric and leather straps (costumes designed by Jessica Ford); she's well matched with Pierce as her foolishly besotted husband, so fascinated by her that he walks into one wall after another. Marcus Kyd plays Lady Reveller's suitor, Lord Worthy, as an overgrown child likely to throw himself onto a chaise and sob when thwarted. Trask is a hoot as a woman who would rather dissect animals than pursue romance. Emily Townley displays poise, and a pneumatic figure, as the maid Alpiew. And Jesneck presents Lady Reveller as a woman who enjoys taking chances—as long as the house always wins.

Scenic designer Marion Williams has taken her inspiration from M.C. Escher's skewed perspectives and towers that fold in upon themselves; she has created a three-dimensional maze in which some of the staircases are upside down and some of the wall sconces are nearer the floor than the ceiling.

Folger Theatre
The Gaming Table
January 24th - March 4th
Adapted from The Basset Table by Susanna Centlivre
Additional material by David Grimm
Lady Reveller: Julie Jesneck
Alpiew: Emily Townley
Sir Richard Plainman: Michael Willis
Lady Lucy: Katie deBuys
Sir James Courtly: Michael Milligan
Ensign Lovely: Robbie Gay
Lord Worthy: Marcus Kyd
Buckle: Ashley Ivey
Valeria: Emily Trask
Captain Hearty/Bailiff: Michael Glenn
Mrs. Sago: Tonya Beckman Ross
Mr. Sago: Darius Pierce
Banker: Emily Trask
Directed by Eleanor Holdridge
201 E. Capitol St., S.E.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-544-7077 or www.folger.edu


Photo: Carol Pratt/Folger Theatre


-- Susan Berlin


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



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