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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

Restoration Comedy a Rousing Riot at Seattle Repertory Theatre

Also see David's review of Holly Jolly Holiday

Restoration Comedy
Laura Kenny, Caralyn Kozlowski
and Bhama Roget

A few seasons back I much admired Seattle Repertory Theatre’s production of The Beard of Avon by Amy Freed, a play of substance and droll wit. Freed’s latest play, Restoration Comedy, in its world premiere here may not have the substance of Beard but I dare say it is funnier in its gut-busting, madcap way. Directed to perfection (as was Beard) by the Rep’s recent past artistic director Sharon Ott, and performed by a cast of zestful zanies, it hasn’t a serious thought on its mind, and provides an antidote for all the holiday warm and fuzziness (and seasonal depression as well) shoved down our throats this time of year.

Basing her narrative and characters on two actual restoration era comedies by Colley Sibber and John Vanbrugh, Freed’s romp details the misadventures of the presumably deceased Loveless, who has in actuality been romping from bed to bed throughout Europe for ten years. All this debauchery has taken its toll and he returns to London, becoming reacquainted with his good friend Worthy who devises a scheme to reunite Loveless with his never remarried, still lovely wife Amanda. The plan appears to work by the end of act one, but in act two Worthy’s own infatuation with Amanda - and Loveless’ past dalliances with Amanda’s sultry friend Berinthia - changes the course of the reconciliation. A giddy sub-plot revolves around two brothers, the unfashionably poor Fashion and his wealthy, and oh so aptly named, brother Lord Foppington, whose fortune Fashion covets.

Director Ott paces the action crisply, yet not breathlessly, allowing the audience to take in the wealth of talent present on the Rep stage. Stephen Caffrey as the lascivious Loveless nails every comic beat Freed has given the character, and ladles on a few more in an astounding comic performance. Caralyn Kozlowski is radiantly lovely and centered as the too forgiving Amanda, and in a brilliant piece of casting, Suzanne Bouchard, who looks enough like Kozlowski to be her sister, adds another wickedly amusing performance to her gallery of them, as the wily Berinthia. Neil Maffin is raffish yet sympathetic as Mr. Worthy, and Jonathan Freeman is to the powdered wig born as the giddy Lord Foppington. Local stalwarts Laura Kenny, Bhama Roget, and especially Laurence Ballard invest their considerable skill in the creation of multiple supporting characters, my favorites being Roget’s ditzy Narcissa and Ballard’s ragingly randy Manlove.

Every bit as wonderful as the cast are the show’s technical achievements. Hugh Landwehr’s scenic design looks as if it were plucked from the illustrations of some glorious old English novel, complete with a moving coach and horses that earns a well deserved hand. Peter Maradudin’s lighting design is pure gossamer, and Anna R. Oliver’s flamboyant, colorful and richly detailed costumes are a sheer delight.

Restoration Comedy clearly confirms that Amy Freed is a playwright to be reckoned with, and the marriage of her words with Ott’s vibrant direction results in a perfect production with which to ring out the old year.

Restoration Comedy runs through January 7, 2006 at Seattle Rep in the Bagley Wright Theatre, 155 Mercer Street in Seattle Center. For more information go on-line at www.seattlerep.org.


Photo: Chris Bennion



- David-Edward Hughes



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