Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tonight: Special 2-for-1 Preview of "The Rivals" at Illinois Shakes Fest

If you've already seen the Illinois Shakespeare Festival productions of "Othello" and "As You Like It," you may be getting impatient to complete your ISF summer season with show #3.

If so, tonight is your lucky night. "The Rivals," Richard Brinsley Sheridan's 1775 comedy of manners, leaps onto the stage at Ewing Manor tonight at 7:30 pm with a special dress rehearsal. Even better: This preview performance offers buy-one-get-one-free tickets. Official opening night is tomorrow, but that preview ticket offer may be hard to resist, especially for a show like "The Rivals," which last played the Festival in the summer of 1990. Yep, 22 years ago.

I remember that production as being funny, fresh and an all-around great time. Then, Philip Earl Johnson, who returns to Ewing Manor fairly often at MooNiE the Magnif'cent, played stalwart young Captain Jack Absolute, who is at the center of Sheridan's romantic romp.This time out, Jack is played by Dylan Paul (pictured at right in the banner above). Jack is the son of a wealthy nobleman, but he pretends to be poor, honest Ensign Beverly to catch the eye of one Lydia Languish. Lydia is a girl with romantic notions about following her heart and eloping with a nobody; she rejects outright any suitor of position or wealth.

Lydia is smitten with Ensign Beverly, not realizing that he is the same person as Jack Absolute, the candidate her guardian, Mrs. Malaprop, has arranged for her. And, yes, it's that same Mrs. Malaprop who has given her name to "malapropism," the idea of using the wrong word -- a word that vaguely sound like the right one -- in the wrong place. And so she begs Lydia to "illiterate" Ensign Beverly from her memory, offering that Captain Jack is "the very pineapple of politeness."

Mrs. Malaprop is hoping to catch the eye of Sir Lucius O'Trigger, a hot-headed Irishman in dire need of funds, but he has set his sights on Lydia, the young heiress, as has a country squire named Bob Acres. That leaves Lydia with the problem of three feisty suitors (four if you count both of the identities Jack is running around with) as well as conflict from her guardian Mrs. M., Jack's dad, and a bunch of friends and servants who keep muddying the waters.

It's all in good fun, just the kind of thing director Deb Alley excels at, and we've already seen from "As You Like It" that actors Paul, Gracyn Mix (Lydia), Alexander Pawlowski IV (Bob Acres) and Lisa Wartenberg (Lydia's friend Julia) can handle the comedy just fine. Taking a break from the tragedy of "Othello," Matt Penn, Amanda Catania and Corliss Preston will take on O'Trigger, saucy maid Lucy, and the mangled language that is Mrs. Malaprop.

"The Rivals" promises to be a real summertime treat, with performances tonight (two-for-one preview), tomorrow, and July 22, 24, 26 and 29 and August 2, 4, 8 and 10.

You can see the performance choices here, and order tickets here. Don't forget to bring a picnic or order one, or to come early for jazz in the courtyard, a backstage tour, or the "Three Wills and a Shakespeare" preshow.


  1. Mrs. Malaprop is really a brilliant piece of writing. In a speech like

    "long ago I laid my positive conjunctions on her, never to think on the fellow again;—I have since laid Sir Anthony's preposition before her; but, I am sorry to say, she seems resolved to decline every particle that I enjoin her."

    somehow the wrong words link together in a crazy sense of their own.

  2. I tried to write minor malapropisms for a character once and it is really, really hard. Much harder than you think going in. The paragraph you quoted is absolutely brilliant, in that 1) Mrs. M does make sense, 2) the words relate to each other and to her particular speech issue AND to the words they're replacing, 3) it builds her character, 4) it furthers the plot, and 5) it's funny.

    It's even more impressive when you realize this was his first play.