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A CurtainUp Review
London Assurance
Consider my position - a few days - and aninsurmountable barrier would have placed you beyond my wildest hopes - you would have been my mother. — Young Charles Courtley
Colin McPhillamy and Rachel Pickup
This is one of those once celebrated but mediocre, occasionally revived mid-19th century comedies that have the ability to amuse audiences through its absurd, elaborately orchestrated series of contrivances. This is the kind of play, or farce if you will, that is notoriously hard to pull off. But director Charlotte Moore for the Irish Repertory Theater and the assigned company somehow manage it by appearing completely at home with the play'as period and style. This shouldn't be a surprise for this company's audiences. Let's say that they have done it again.

This admittedly quaint comedy reaches its comedic heights thanks in large measure to the altogether winning performances by Colin McPhillamy as Sir Harcourt Courtley, the play’s central character, and his co-conspirators. They all know exactly how to harness and deliver the constant flow of florid yakity-yak, with much of it further adorned as asides to the audience.

A “comedy of manners,” London Assurance was written in 1841 by twenty-year-old Irish-born Dion Boucicault. It has as its main virtue a recognizable resonance of the best of classic Restoration comedy. It was rapturously received when it premiered at London’s Covent Garden in 1841and catapulted the young playwright to prominence and an exalted place among English-speaking playwrights. Building a canon that would exceed more than one hundred and fifty plays, Boucicault’s perhaps most provocative play The Octoroon was recently resurrected to acclaim.

Frankly, London Assurance's main drawback is that it is not all that good. It’s unrelieved celebration of antiquated social artifice might be a bit too much for a modern audience. But that does not prevent it from being.

It is especially fun to watch McPhillamy make his ever so subtle shifts into Sir Harcourt's ever increasing self-aggrandizing as the foolishly vain elderly aristocrat with more rouge on his cheeks than blood in his unsteady loins. There is no quibbling whether Sir Harcourt has become another conquest for McPhillamy, who just last season was lauded for his role in The Seafarer at the Irish Rep. He is assuredly in lock-step with all the prerequisite posing and posturing of the ensemble, an effort and an effect that makes this kind of theater, for some, so irresistible....for some.

The older Sir Harcourt is, as the plot informs us, betrothed to the demure, but hardly dim, Grace Harkaway (played to the hilt of demure-ableness by Caroline Strang.) She is, in turn, not above exchanging goo-goo eyes with young Charles, Sir Harcourt’s son, as played with an incredulous mixture of panache and sheer panic by Ian Holcomb. Most delightfully wacky is Rachel Pickup as Lady Gay Spanker, a horsewoman out for the hunt in more ways than one. Sir Harcourt’s valet Cool, as played by Elliot Joseph is just that while Mark Meddle, as played by Evan Zes is terrific as the unctuous, trouble-making lawyer. It won’t take you a minute to realize they all have names that describe them.

Other decorative locations in and around London and Gloucestershire are offered by set designer James S. Noone on the nicely-used revolving stage. These are smartly enhanced by the lighting designed by Michael Gottlieb. The period costumes by Sara Jean Tosetti do their best to compete with the obligatory ostentation of their wearers.

Admittedly, your patience as well as your amusement may be tested a bit watching the play?s characters resolve their primarily romantic problems. However, your patience, as was mine, is hopefully to be rewarded.

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London Assurance By Dion Boucicault Directed by Charlotte Moore

Cast: Craig Wesley Divino (Dazzle), Meg Hennessy (Pert), Ian Holcomb (Young Charles Courtly), Elliot Joseph (Cool), Brian Keane (Max Harkaway), Colin McPhillamy (Sir Harcourt Courtly), Rachel Pickup (Lady Gay Spanker), Caroline Strang (Grace Harkaway), Evan Zes (Mark Meddle), Robert Zukerman (Adolphus Spanker).
Scenic Design: James Noone
Costume Design: Sara Jean Tosetti
Lighting Design: Michael Gottlieb
Sound Design: M. Florian Staab
Sound Design and Original Music: Ryan Rumery
Production Stage Manager: April Ann Kline
Running Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Irish Repertory Theatre Francis J. Greenburger Mainstage (132 W 22nd Street
Tickets to London Assurance range from $45-$70 and are available through Irish Rep’s box office at 212-727-2737 or online at A block of tickets for preview performances will go on sale at noon two weeks before first preview for $22 each as part of Irish Rep’s $22 on 22nd Street initiative.
The performance schedule for London Assurance will be as follows: Wednesdays at 3pm and 8pm; Thursdays at 7pm; Fridays at 8pm; Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm; and Sundays at 3pm. Exceptions: There will be no performances on Wednesday, December 25 and Wednesday, January 1. There will be additional performances on Monday, December 23 at 7pm; Friday, December 27 at 3pm; Monday, December 30 at 7pm; and Tuesday December 31 at 3pm.
From 12/06/19 Opened 12/15/19 Ends 01/26/20
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 12/14/19

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