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The Pearl Theatre Company Keeps "The Constant Couple" Young
"The Constant Couple"
Directed by Jean Randich
The Pearl Theatre Company
80 St. Mark's Place at 1st Ave.
Opened Nov. 26, 2007
Tues. 7 p.m., Thurs – Sat. 8 p.m., Wed. 2 p.m., Sun. 2 and 7:30 p.m.
$40, $50 (212) 598-9802 or www.pearltheatre.org
Closes Dec. 23, 2007
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Dec. 4. 2007
When Colonel Standard, in George Farquhar's "The Constant Couple," says "This is illusion all…truth is but falsehood well disguised," he may well be stating the theme of not only Farquhar's comic universe but also much of Restoration drama.
By the time the monarchy was reinstated, the English were sick of piety and were looking for fun. Restoration drama was cynical, false and contrived. Insincerity was a virtue. Love, for the restoration dramatists, was a game in which a virtuous woman finally wins over the best man, selected from a host of phonies and fops.
In "The Constant Couple" five men vie for the beautiful and rich Lady Lurewell (Rachel Botchan), a woman whose traumatic first experience with love has made her determined never to love again.
Vizard (David L. Townsend) is a pious hypocrite. Alderman Smuggle (the superb Dominic Cuskern), Vizard's uncle, is a conniving merchant. Sir Harry Wildair (Bradford Cover) is a womanizer. Clincher Sr. (Edward Placer, of the high-pitched "Jubilee"), Smuggler's apprentice, is a foolish dandy who is eager to spend the money he recently inherited. Only Colonel Standard (John Pasha) appears to be sincerely in love with the woman he is pursuing.
Farquhar supplies his comedy with more twists than a pretzel. Vizard tricks Wildair into believing his cousin Angelica (Jolly Abraham), a woman of honor, is actually a prostitute. At the same time, he writes a note to Angelica and her dignified and straight-laced mother (the excellent Joanne Camp), telling them that Wildair has come with a proposal of marriage. Wildair falls in love with Angelica. Clincher exchanges clothing and identities with Tom Errand (the very funny Orville Mendoza), a porter, and is suspected of murder.
Like most Restoration playwrights, Farquhar give his characters names that are a strong indication of kind of people they are. But a talented cast goes a long way toward filling in the gaps.
The Pearl Theatre Company's production, directed by Jean Randich, is enthusiastic, energetic and naughty. Cover is the perfect foil for Pasha's earnest Wilder. No matter how roguishly he acts, he is always likable.
Mendoza shines in his small but essential role. And costume designer Liz Covey has equipped him with a pair of roller blades on his shoes that add much zip to his entrances and exits. She's also given Clincher a lovely purple wig, and decked out the entire cast in lavish period clothing.
Yet there's something entirely modern about "The Constant Couple." The world of Restoration drama was bawdy, superficial and urbane. By staying remarkably faithful to this world, Pearl Theatre Company remains steadfastly up-to-date.
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