The Beaux´ Stratagem

by Dick Kerekes
Just as you can’t judge a book by its cover it is true you can’t judge a play by its title. The Beaux’ Stratagem? You never heard of it? Well, its been around since playwright George Farquhar debuted it in 1707 and was popular for a few years. In fact three US Presidents have seen it. John Quincy Adams in London, George Washington in the city named after him in the mid l700s and Harry Truman saw it 58 years ago in Alexandria Virginia. In l938 Thornton Wilder began an adaptation but died before he finished. In 2004 Playwright Ken Ludwig (Lend Me A Tenor and Moon Over Buffalo) was commissioned to complete it. The streamlined version debuted at The Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington in 2007 and was a big hit. Theatre Jacksonville is only the third theatre in the country to have been granted the rights to the new script.
Enough of its history. There are three important things you need to know. This is a very very funny play!! It will throughout September until October 4th, at Theatre Jacksonville, 2032 San Marco Blvd. Any seat in the house is only $10.00 for the entire run thanks to the support from TJ’s producing partner River Branch Foundation who once again is responsible for Classics in San Marco to be a reality. Wow!
The Beux’ Stratagem is a comedy farce about two young handsome gentlemen, Archer and Aimwell (hence the term Beaux), who are having hard times and have a plan (hence the term Stratagem) to travel around the small towns and snare young rich women, steal their money and leave town for the next conquest. In the first town, Lichfield, they run into a problem because when Aimwell sets his sights on the lovely Dorinda he falls in love. Archer too is struck by cupid’s arrow and falls for Mrs. Sullen, a beautiful and sensual woman but unfortunately married. The rest I will let you discover, as there are many subplots, all humorous in this very fast paced show. The first act is just under 90 minutes long, but it is the fastest hour and a half I have ever spent in a theatre.
There are eighteen actors in the cast, all of them interesting and several truly unique and hilarious. Mark Wright is Boniface, a landlord who brews ale that is undrinkable, and has a lot of larceny in his blood. Geoffrey King is the very comical Gross, part time highwayman and part-time a man of the cloth. Lady Bountiful is compassionate as Dorinda’s (Sommer Farhat) mother. As played by Sandy Spurney, she is an uproarious mother from hell who fancies herself a healer with amputation as her favorite cure for most ailments. Brad Trowbridge is Lady Bountiful’s drunken son Squire Sullen who is brutal to his charming and cultured wife Kate, played by Tracy Olin. Alexis Robbins is the cheeky Cherry, the third romantic interest in the play who finds a way out of her seemingly doomed life as the innkeeper ‘s daughter and servant. The show builds to a riotous climax with the entrance of Andrew Dickson as Foigard, the clownish French clergyman who comes to perform a wedding in a most unusual way.
I like the way this play is written because it gives the supporting cast moments in the spotlight even if only for a short time. Robert Thames as Sir Charles Freeman is Lady Bountiful’s brother and important to the plot, as is James Bennett, who plays Scrub a servant to the dear old lady.
Others in the cast include, Jessica Palombo(Lady Wither), Caylor Ventro (Daniel), Erin Mah (a country woman), Shannon Padgett (Gipsy) Fred Gatlin (Hounslow) Zdravko Rozic(Bagshot).
Our two leading men are played by New York actor, Ryan Feyk (Archer) is an FSU graduate and knew the play’s director at that school and jumped at the chance to come to this city to do this role. He is also a standup comic in NYC and his excellent comedic timing is evident in this show. Local actor Joseph Walz, a recent graduate of UF Law School and now a member of the Florida Bar, continues to add to his already impressive resume of roles with a superb performance as Aimwell. Walz and Feyk make a great team and having remarkable chemistry.
Tracy Olin created the wonderful period costume with Wig Designer Mickey Leger completing the perfect picture of a play from the Restoration period in England.
The revolving stage created by Technical Director/ Light Designer Jeff Wagoner and Set Designer Kelly Wagoner is one the most remarkable I have seen on the Theatre Jacksonville Stage. Starting as a two story inn, it turns in to Lady Bountiful’s dispensary, then her drawing room and later into a bedchamber in the house. All this is done by the by the cast members, with our delicate ladies in full gowns pushing the walls that are so expertly balanced. When you see the play pay attention to the paintings on the walls, as they are optical illusions.
Director Geoffrey Kershner teaches at Randolph College and is Artist Director of the Endstation Theatre Company. He came to Jacksonville to direct TJ’s classic A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2007. It was so successful, he was invited back to direct this year’s classic The Beux’ Stratgem and has another winner on his hands.
By all means don’t miss this show. It is very witty and well written with a very beautiful use of words. All the seats are general admission and only the capacity is sold. So if you have always wanted to sit in the front row, get there early but every seat in the house is excellent in this comfortable theatre. Be sure to get there early enough to read the excellent study guide that is part of the program. You will learn everything you will ever want to know about this play and Restoration Theater
This is fantastic value at $l0.00 a ticket, so don’t miss out. Call 396-4425 and reserve a ticket today, I guarantee an evening of laughs and more laughs, and seeing the set and costumes are worth the price of admission.