Off Broadway Reviews
Other than the NTLive! presentation of Nicholas Hynter's revival starring Simon Russell Beale and Fiona Shaw at the National in London in 2010, the last production of London Assurance seen here in New York was Joe Dowling's glorious staging at the Roundabout in 1997 starring the late, great Brian Bedford and the divine Helen Carey. The Roundabout's production nabbed Tony nominations for Bedford, Carey and Best Revival of a Play, and with good reason. Though the Irish Rep's revival doesn't have the marquee names (or the budgets!) of the National or the Roundabout, the cast is solidly impressive and its jaw-dropping sets by James Noone and sumptuous costumes by Sara Jean Tosetti are lavish by the Rep's standards.
The plot is simple and only amplifies the hilarious names of Boucicault's characters. The vainglorious Sir Harcourt Courtly (a terrific Colin McPhillamy), who is 63 but only admits to 39, is lured away from the epicenter of fashionable London by the promise of a rich and beautiful bride, 18-year old Grace Harkaway (the lovely and feisty Caroline Strang), who lives with her uncle, the robust sportsman Max Harkaway (Brian Keane, wonderful), and her maid Pert (a sassy Meg Hennessy) at Oak Hall in Gloucestershire. Sir Courtly, with his trusty valet Cool (a diplomatic Elliot Joseph) in tow, travels from his home in Belgrave Square to Oak Hall to meet his young intended, unaware that his son, the 25-year old Charles (the handsome Ian Holcomb), is already in residence there with a recent acquaintance, Richard Dazzle (a diabolical Craig Wesley Divino). Though his father thinks him the embodiment of virtue, Charles is really a drunken roustabout who has accepted the invitation to Oak Hall to escape a slew of London creditors. For his part, Dazzle is a mercenary schemer who's always ready to accept free food, wine, and lodging in return for being, well, dazzling.
To be sure, Boucicault's comedy isn't a masterpiece, but it's silly fun, especially with a cast that's having a good time, which the Rep's company certainly is. And although the production could use a little tightening, particularly with the way the characters deliver their "asides" to the audience, this London Assurance is a holiday treat the whole family can enjoy.