"Rivals" Heats Up Huntington In January

Post-Restoration-Era Comedy With Mary Louise Wilson

The Huntington Theatre Company's production of “The Rivals,” Richard Brinsley Sheridan's comedy of romantic duels and comic wordplay, will open January 7, 2005, at the B.U. Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue in Boston. Artistic Director Nicholas Martin directs.

Written by Sheridan (1751-1816) at age 24, “The Rivals” satirizes the trappings of marriage and wealth. In the play, the affluent Captain Jack Absolute disguises himself as a poor naval officer to woo the idealistic Lydia Languish, an heiress to whom wealth means nothing. Lydia falls for Jack but her aunt, Mrs. Malaprop, and his father, Sir Anthony, have other plans for the young lovers. Mistaken identities, quarrels and duels, and misconstrued circumstances set the stage for a satire of romance, materialism and social pretensions.

Sheridan, considered one of Britain's greatest comic writers, was part owner and playwright of the famed Drury Lane Theatre. His other well-known works include “The School for Scandal,” “The Critic” and “The Dilemma.” Sheridan left the theatre at age 30 to become a statesman. He was elected to Parliament and had a large hand in shaping British governmental affairs until his death. Sheridan's own life and marital foibles (he himself was challenged to a duel over a young love affair) shaped the plot of “The Rivals.”

While “The Rivals,” “The School for Scandal” and others set the standard for bawdy romantic stories still being written today, Sheridan's broadest legacy from the play may be the introduction of the word "malapropism" to the English language. The word is derived from the character Mrs. Malaprop, who continually uses sophisticated words incorrectly to great comic effect. The name Malaprop itself is derived from the French phrase, mal à propos, meaning "inappropriate."

The cast includes (in alphabetical order) Eric Anderson as David, Mia Barron as Julia, Cheryl Lynn Bowers as Lydia Languish, Scott Ferrara as Captain Jack Absolute, Brian Hutchison as Bob Acres, Will LeBow as Sir Anthony Absolute, Helen McElwain as Lucy, Nathaniel McIntyre as Thomas, Rod McLachlan as Sir Lucius O'Trigger, Gareth Saxe as Faulkland, Dennis Staroselsky as Drudge and legendary theatre actress Mary Louise Wilson as Mrs. Malaprop.

Martin comments that the production will be "a big burst of sunlight," with eye-popping costumes, young lovers played by sexy (and youthful) actors, as well as splashy, colorful sets. "The clothes and scenery have the feel of an MGM musical interpretation. It's a romp that will generate enough heat to help us through the cold, hard winter," Martin says.

Many cast members are making return trips to the Huntington. Anderson, seen in many Boston area productions, previously appeared in Nicholas Martin's production of “Dead End” and was an understudy in “Betty's Summer Vacation.” Barron, a Brookline native, appeared in Martin's production of “Springtime for Henry” as well as “Heartbreak House.” Hutchison just appeared in “Burn This.” LeBow, a longtime actor at American Repertory Theatre, recently starred in the world premiere production of “Sonia Flew” by Melinda Lopez and is currently serving as narrator for a musical interpretation of "A Christmas Carol" featured in this year's Boston Pops holiday concerts. McLachlan was in “Dead End” and “Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme.” Staroselsky also was in “Dead End.”

Wilson last appeared with the Huntington in a 1986 production of “The Birthday Party.” Her long theatre career includes Obie and Drama Desk Awards for her portrayal of Diana Vreeland in the Martin-directed production of “Full Gallop,” which she co-authored with Mark Hampton. She was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance as Fraulein Schneider in the groundbreaking revival of “Cabaret” in New York.

Designed for theatregoers 35 and under and for members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender communities, Club Nights provide an opportunity to mingle with fellow theatregoers and participating members of the artistic team and cast at a pre- or post-show reception (free with the purchase of tickets).

For theatregoers 35 and under
Thursday, January 13, following the 7:30 P.M. performance

For gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender communities
Wednesday, January 26
7:30 P.M. performance, with a pre-show reception at 6 P.M.

Learn more about theatre - what's onstage and what's happening behind the scenes - with this exciting interactive program. Tuesday, February 1, 6 to 7 P.M..

Enjoy a presentation by a member of the Huntington's artistic staff, featuring contextual background and production-related information.
Tuesday, January 11, 6:30 to 7 P.M.

Sunday, January 23, following the 2 P.M. matinee.
Humanities Forums are free and open to the public.

Participating members of “The Rivals” cast will appear after the show to answer questions from the audience.
Wednesday, February 2, following the 2 P.M. matinee.

For tickets and more information call 617-266-0800, visit the B.U. Theatre Box Office or log on to www.huntingtontheatre.org or www.BostonTheatreScene.com.

-- OnStage Boston


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