Caroline Strang and Ian Holcomb
By Eugene Paul
a New York assurance bordering on sorcery, director Charlotte Moore romps
through one of the most delectable and enchanting -- and fiendishly difficult
to perform – of theatrical endeavors, the drawing room farce and comes up a
winner all round with Irish-American Dion Boucicault’s 1841 triumph, London
Assurance , itself a ground breaking braggadocio of a piece. Her splendid
company of players are having such a good time it’s infectious. And never have
they been turned out more handsomely. Costume designer Sara Jean Tosetti’s slit
eyed take on frills and furbelows of the period suit set designer James
Noone’s flummeries to a tee. Among the fittings and appurtenances, I don’t
recall a fancier eye catching floor. Such a doozy.
this, the second play Boucicault ever wrote, at age twenty–one, he went on to
as blazing a bonfire of a career, scandalous highs, scandalous lows, as anyone
could ever dream of, frequently putting on the stage pages torn from his too
colorful life. (It’s said he wrote or rewrote three hundred plays. Which is a
puzzlement, considering his amorous history. Where’d he find the time?)
find ourselves in fashionable Belgrave Square, London, sly wretch Cool
(excellent Elliot Joseph) manservant to Sir Harcourt Courtly ( wickedly
splendid Colin McPhillamy) constantly twiddling and twitching his employer’s
egotistic preenings as well as his actual diminished locks and augmented girth.
Sir Harcourt sees himself as a lady killer and is not at all surprised to be
preparing to marry the eighteen year old ward of his good friend,Max Harkaway (
fine Brian Keane). Nor is Harkaway surprised at the arrangement. There’s an
actual fiddling of property in the match benefiting the much older Sir
by Carol Rosegg
these arrangements ( lots of eavesdropping going on in these vintage plays) are
Charles Courtly, (dashing Ian Holcomb) Sir Harcourt’s young rake of a son and
his ne’er do well rapscallion of a companion Dazzle (delightful Craig Wesley
Divino) who thinks they ought to crash the party at Oak Hall, the site of the
impending wedding. Dazzle can worm himself into any situation – and does – but
young Charles is still learning, perfectly willing to assume a new identity,
say, young Hamilton? Hamilton it is. His disguise? Spectacles.
Pickup & Colin McPhillamy
a gentle rumble of the setting, we are in Oak Hall, Gloucestershire, young
Grace Harkaway (bewitching Caroline Strang) doing something usefully useless
while housemaid Pert (delightful Meg Hennessy) does something uselessly useful
and bumptious lawyer Mark Meddle (bumptious Evan Zes) does more of the same
plus much alert hiding and ducking chairs to engage in the inevitable eavesdropping
they all seem to need so . The crashers, Dazzle and - er – Hamilton, would
adapt easily except that Hamilton, young Charles Courtly, falls instantly and
madly in love with Grace, who, shudder, is on the point of becoming his
mother. Something must be done.
Heavens for the arrival of Lady Gay Spanker (giddily marvelous Rachel Pickup)
who has ridden over on her horse from the neighboring estate of the Spankers.
Her husband, Lord Spanker (terrific Robert Zukerman) much older, has arrived by
carriage. She is just the machination clever Dazzle needs in order to help out
his pal Hamilton who is so smitten by the adorable Grace, whose eye has an all
too wise glint sussing out the goings on. Dazzle prevails on Lady Gay to
flirt with Sir Harcourt for an immediate elopement. Lady Gay is game, among
other things. And having a husband is not a very big bother. And Sir Harcourt?
Nothing would please his foppish noggin more, as well as his unfailing
overweening ego. It’s when Dazzle presents the gorgeous dueling pistols that
things get a bit testy.
and withal, director Moore dispenses a light hand and a wealth of silly bits
guiding her remarkable company in decorating their already decorous
proceedings, but, as always, the play’s the thing. And Boucicault remains then
as now a crowd pleaser. But you gotta pick and choose, and the Irish Rep has
At the Irish Repertory Theatre, 132 West 22nd Street.
Tickets:$50-$70. 212-727-2737. 2 hrs, 20 min. Thru Jan 26.