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Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010

Marquette’s ‘Stratagem’ Finds Its Mark

Theater Review

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Gambling. Drink. Seduction. Money. Thievery. Sounds much like headlines from the 21st century. But, in this case, try the early 18th century, in the form of the Restoration comedy The Beaux’ Stratagem,which arrived with a history of its own before opening at Marquette University’s Helfaer Theatre last weekend.

George Farquhar’s clever, pointed commentary on society and the sexes first “debuted” in 1707. Celebrated playwright and novelist Thornton Wilder (born in Madison, Wis.) attempted an adaptation in 1939 but never finished it. Sixty-five years later, however, contemporary playwright Ken Ludwig (Lend Me a Tenor, among others) finished Wilder’s work. Today, the witty wordplay is as fast and funny as ever, and Marquette’s cast of 15 is up to the challenge (for the most part) under the well-paced direction of Maureen Kilmurry.

As two vagabond scoundrels in search of the next heiress in the next town to seduce and fleece, Tom Aimwell and Jack Archer find more than they expect in Lichfield, England, once love and romance enter into the scenario. Throw in a band of thieves and swords are drawn—literally.

The production values remain high throughout, especially the splendid period costumes by Deb Krajec and some funny bits with the lighting under Michael McNamara’s direction.

The acting is solid, with standout performances by John Gallagher as the seductive rogue of a gentleman Jack Archer, Alexandra Bonesho as Cherry, the doe-eyed yet shrewd country maid, and Kelsey Lauren in a wonderful turn as the ignored housewife with the big dowry, Mrs. Sullen. As the thieving, conniving rector, Matt Wickey steals every scene he’s in (pun intended) with his hilarious delivery, be it planning the next heist or attempting to marry Cherry.

Playing drunk is hard to do, but Joe Picchetti succeeds in making his Lord Sullen a childish lush and a man’s man at the same time. And, so complete is his transformation, it’s hard to believe that underneath the extremely elderly, befuddled manservant scrub lies Marquette senior Harry Loeffler-Bell.

With this recent adaptation of The Beaux’ Stratagem, half the fun is watching these characters get into their various predicaments. And the other half? Seeing if it ends well—or at least well enough.

The Beaux’ Stratagem
runs through Nov. 21 at Marquette University’s Helfaer Theatre, 525 N. 13th St. For more information, call 414-288-7504.
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