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New Jersey by Bob Rendell

The Alchemist Fails to Produce Gold
The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey

Also see Bob's review of Lucky Me

I have made at least 1,000 changes to Jonson's original text— ... some minute ...others as arrogant as re-writing entire lines. I made hundreds of cuts and word changes, and deleted various minor characters and locations. What I have attempted is to create an adaptation that ...honors Jon's language, style and intent ....I have assigned myself the role of modern tour guide to bring Jonson to the audiences of the 21st century ....I have endeavored to convert old gold to new gold."

—excerpted from Bonnie J. Monte's Director's Notes for The Alchemist


Aedin Moloney
It has been said the road to you know where is paved with good intentions. Sadly, the brilliant and indefatigable Bonnie J. Monte has come a cropper with her production of her own new adaptation of Ben Jonson's rarely today produced 1610 classic comedy, The Alchemist.

The more than 400-year-old comedy is set in the suburban London home of the genial Lord Lovewit. Lovewit has fled in order to escape the Plague, leaving his home in the care of his butler, Jeremy. A scamp, Jeremy is using the Lovewit house as the headquarters for the operation of his schemes to defraud a bevy of avaricious fools. Principal among his schemes is convincing victims that he can turn base metal into gold. Another fraud is the promise of marriage to an alleged high born lady. Jeremy has assumed the guise of "Captain Face," and recruited fellow commoners, the rogue Subtle, and prostitute Dol Common to aid and abet him.

In short order, there follows the introduction of a parade of greedy secular and clerical fools who are subjected to a variety of complicated frauds, some of which involve disguises. Frankly, I found some of the detail impenetrable. This caused the various victims of Face and his accomplices to blend into one another as they were rapidly trotted in and out either singly or in tandem spouting dialogue the humor and complexity of which were difficult to suss out. Judging by the paucity of laughter, various comments I overheard at the intermission, and the two dozen or thereabout intermission walkouts, I was not alone.

Contributing to the problem are some of the British accents and phrasings employed by the cast. Particularly problematic in this area is Aedin Moloney (Dol Common). Despite this, Moloney's performance is richly demented and detailed. The extended tedium of the "first act" is alleviated a bit by a slapstick scene reminiscent of a The Three Stooges routine at its conclusion.

If you do attend The Alchemist, I recommend that you remain for the "second act." For, with its premises having been established (albeit indistinctly and indistinctively) and the clarifying return home of Lovewit, director Monte and her talented cast of farceurs do manage to provide some mildly amusing low comedy turns and a not uninteresting, sensible resolution. Every member of the ensemble performs nimbly and amusingly here.

However, the production's virtues, including a solid and handsome wood and stucco set with a narrow second story hallway running the length of its back wall, are not nearly sufficient to compensate for its dreary, interminable "first act".

The Alchemist continues performances through August 31, 2014, (Evenings: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays (except 8/24) 7:30 pm; Thursday - Saturday 8 pm/ Matinees: Saturday and Sunday 2 pm at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, on the campus of Drew University, 36 Madison Avenue, Madison, NJ 07940. Box Office: 973-408-5600, online: www.shakespeareNJ.org.

The Alchemist by Ben Jonson; adapted and directed by Bonnie J. Monte

Cast
Dol Common……………………………...Aedin Moloney
Face…………………………………………….Jon Barker
Subtle………………………………………..Bruce Cromer
Dapper…………………………………………....Jon Sprik
Drugger……………………………….....Jeffrey M. Bender
Sir Epicure Mammon……………………….....Brent Harris
Pertinax Surly…………………………………Kevin Isolate
Ananias……………………………….James Michael Reilly
Tribulation Wholesome……..........Raphael Nash Thompson
Kastril……………………………………..Shamus Mulcahy
Dame Pliant…………………………………...Kristen Kittel
Lovewit………………………………………......John Ahlin
Carter/Parson/Officer……………………......James Costello


Photo: Photo: © Jerry Dalia, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey


- Bob Rendell



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