Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Theatre of Others is presenting a Jacobean play written in the 17th century called The Roaring Girl, by Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker. I have seen a few Jacobean plays in my day and they are usually multifaceted in plot. The Roaring Girl is the most complex comedy of this type I have seen, and it is short on plot. It involves Moll Cutpurse (Arcady Darter), a carouser, cross-dresser, pickpocket, and street brawler in the lower depths of 17th century London.
The Roaring Girl is rarely produced because of its episodic nature of comedy that is best enjoyed as a whirling kaleidoscope of city lowlife. The play looks unpolished alongside the fashionable entertainments of Ben Johnson. There are too many subplots, including one about Sebastian Wengrave (Nick Moore) tricking his father Sir Alexander Wengrave (Greg Gutting) into letting him marry his beloved Mary (Emma Nadine Onasch) by pretending he dotes upon the notorious Moll Cutpurse. Meanwhile, Mrs. Openwork (Irina Dianova) tricks her gullible husband (Glenn Havlan) into coughing up the money for her supposed lover and the villain of the piece, Laxton (Heren Patel), who gets into all sort of mischief.
This "bawdy romp" boasts a remarkable ensemble of 15 strong performers, most of whom play two characters each. Though the cast has dedicated tremendous time, energy and craft to developing their characters, the plot is so multifarious and the intertwining of characters so topsy-turvy, I had problems of following the comedy.
Arcady Darter doesn't overdo the roaring and yelling and she has a clear speaking voice that is understandable. She gives a dashing performance as Moll. Nick Moore gives a jaunty performance and is self-assured as young Sebastian. He exemplifies the character's youthful vitality with ease. Grey Gutting with his beautiful Shakespearean voice is outstanding as Sebastian's father. This character is well formed. Glenn Havlan and Irina Dianova are pitch perfect in the roles of Mr. and Mrs. Openwork. Heren Patel is impressive as the lascivious Laxton and he mugs in the last scene of the play wonderfully and unashamedly in the Jacobean style. Nick Chapman is splendid as Goshawk. Emma Nadine Onasch gives a fine performance as Mary. Judy Christian, Sheila Cress, Polina Litvak, Ryan Nielsen, Laurel Scotland-Steward, and Ian Wilcox give good performances in their various roles.
Gaby Schneider, who directed this two-hour production with intermission, also has a minor role as musician in the comedy. She directs with style. Bethany Deal's costumes are in line with the 17th century, although some are in something of a modern design, such as the outfit worn by Nick Moore.
The Roaring Girl runs through July 2nd, 2017, at the Kelly Cullen Community Auditorium, 220 Golden Gate, San Francisco. For ticket and other information, visit to-sf.org.