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Glenda Frank



Lady Bracknell (Christine Pedi) and Frank (Moboluwaji Ademide Akintilo). Photo by Mikki Schaffner.

“The Rewards of Being Frank,” at New York Classical Theatre,  is a fun romp through the drawing room and garden of Oscar Wilde's most famous play.  It is not a rival, but homage to the source material with the leading roles shifted to the women.  This Lady Bracknell (Christine Pedi) has a few randy surprises for everyone, Algernon (James Evans) emerges as the comic lead, and then  there's the tutor, Frank (Moboluwaji Ademide Akintilo), with  his  Bernard Shaw bravura (think a young Alfred P. Doolittle, complete with a working class accent.

Alice Scovell ‘s play is a sequel to Wilde’s.  Gwendolyn (Kelly Mengelkoch)  has been married to Ernest (Jeremy Dubin),  Cecily (Tora Nogami Alexander) to Algernon for seven years. As you’d expect, there are running jokes about cucumber sandwiches and everyone kotows to Lady B. Cecily and Gwendolyn are interviewing  tutors for their children, but only third-rate tutors will do.  They do not want the children to turn into prodigies because prodigies become social outfits. The goal is just enough smatterings of this and that to create  charming mediocrities.  

Enter Frank, who is incapable of lying because of his given name. The bored housewives are immediately smitten with the arrogant young man as he struts his stuff. And we, the audience, are much relieved because the play’s playfulness has begun. When he courts both of them separately, declaring his instantaneous affection for each. we think we see the ensuing complication, but Scovell is cleverer than that.

She does not have Wilde’s turn of phrase or incisive social jabs, but what she offers are performance opportunities that director Stephen Burdman (Founding Artistic Director) and the cast make the most of them. Everyone has a turn at being outrageous although at the end the piling up tips over the edge of absurdity. The wives have been busy. One has been publishing novels based on her journal entries and they are the talk of society. The other invested in some newfangle device that brings fresh air into the house, a totally useless item according to Lady Bracknell. And our Lady B, far more liberated than her family suspected, finds love.

The streaming version of “The Rewards of Being Frank”  is available for a donation of $10 or more. The 24-hour link expires at 10:00 pm, Sunday, March 26, 2023.

“The Rewards of Being Frank” by Alice Scovell, a New York Classical Theatre production, directed by Stephen Burdman,
A.R.T./New York Mezzanine Theatre, 502 West 53rd Street (cross street 10th Avenue).
March 3-26, 2023. Tuesdays to Sundays at 7pm Wednesday matinees at 2pm. For tickets and more information: https://nyclassical.org/frank, (212) 233-6496, or https://ci.ovationtix.com/35099/store/donations/49755.
All NY Classical programs are free and open to the public, pending seating availability. FREE admission will be available one hour before curtain on a first-come, first-served basis. Refunds of $35 per seat are available  at the theatre after each performance. Refundable reservation fees may be turned into a tax-deductible donation upon the patron’s request.

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