Theatre presents final show of seasonPublished 12:02am Friday, June 1, 2012
Natchez Little Theatre’s final production of its record-breaking 64th Season is an 18th-century English Restoration period comedy set in 19th-century Natchez.panels
NLT’s Artistic Director Layne Taylor has adapted renowned playwright Richard Sheridan’s hilarious comedy of manners, “The Rivals,” and has taken care to preserve all the clever wit of the original. Taylor also directs the production.
Sheridan took no pains to shade his characters with nuanced realism; instead he exaggerates at every turn.
“The Rivals” is a romantic play about the complications of love caused by meddling parents and the ridiculous expectations of the young couples involved in the story. If there is anything more ridiculous than young people in love, it’s parents and guardians who try to interfere with them. The young people are self-defeating in their pursuit of romance and the adults just as clumsy in their attempt to arrange their romances and marriages.
A huge hysterical burlesque, “The Rivals” is a great satire that turns the familiar world of arranged marriages, courtship and rivalry on its head.
It is considered one of the sharpest and funniest social comedies of the late 18th century. The most famous character in the play is Mrs. Malaprop, played with aplomb by Bo Allen, who is infamous in her select words so ingeniously misapplied, without being mispronounced. Her hilarious abuse of the English language coined the term Malapropism.
Her counterpart is the domineering master of Woodlawn Plantation in the Delta, Mr. Anthony Absolute, played by NLT veteran and award-winning actor, Stacey Carden.
His son, Captain Jack Absolute, played by Lee Dellinger, has pretended to be a mere cadet to woo a beautiful heiress, Lydia Languish, played by Arden McMillin, who is determined to marry beneath her and without her Aunt Malaprop’s consent, thus losing her fortune.
Lydia is also sought after by Bob Acres, portrayed by Steen Williams, who is a country bumpkin from Clod Hall, a neighboring plantation to the Absolutes. Another rival for the hand of Lydia is Mr. Lucius O’Trigger, played by Tam Winston in his stage debut. Mr. O’Trigger is the former owner of Blunderbuss Hall and has fallen on hard times.
Mrs. Malaprop has been smitten by Lucius and has written him anonymously as Delia, who Lucius wistfully mistakes as being a pseudonym for Lydia Languish.
Lydia’s cousin is Julia Melville, ward of Anthony Absolute, played by Kaytlyn Walker, who is betrothed to Faulkland. Jack Absolute’s best friend is played by NLT veteran and award-winning actor, Dwight Adams (formerly Dwight Williams).
The confusion over the romances is exasperated by Mrs. Malaprop’s ingenious servant, Lucy, played by another NLT award-winning actress, Thea Shelton, who is most adept at playing the simpleton.
The cast is rounded out with incredible over-the-top performances by Michael Ware as Mr. Fag, Jack Absolute’s manservant; Bryan Carroll as David, Bob Acre’s manservant; and Morgan Mizell as Miss Thomas, Julia Melville’s servant.
“The Rivals” assistant directors/stage managers are Morgan Mizell and Ashley Kelp. Adrienne St. John serves as assistant stage manager and prop mistress.
The sets were designed and constructed by Don Vesterse.
The show opens on Thursday and runs through Saturday evening, June 9, with a 7:30 p.m. curtain. There is a final Sunday 2 p.m. matinee on June 10.
All tickets are $15 and should be reserved in advance even if you are a member of NLT by calling 601-442-2233 or 1-877-440-2233 or you can purchase your tickets online at www.natcheztheatre.org.
At 7 p.m. Wednesday, the curtain will rise on a benefit performance of “The Rivals” as a fundraiser for two closely linked organizations, the Historic Natchez Foundation and Natchez Downtown Development Association. These benefit tickets are $10 each with all proceeds going to these two worthy non-profit organizations.
Come early for a reception with cocktails and refreshments at 6 p.m. hosted by the two organizations.
You may pre-purchase tickets for the Wednesday benefit performance at Historic Natchez Foundation, 108 S. Commerce St. 601-442-2500 or by contacting Natchez Little Theatre at 319 Linton Ave. in Natchez.
Natchez Little Theatre is funded in part by the Mississippi Arts Commission, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.
I look forward to seeing you at NLT’s final production of its 64th Season, “The Rivals.”
Anna Rife is the secretary of the Natchez Little Theatre and Historic Natchez Foundation financial officer.