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A CurtainUp DC Review
The Way of the World
The same themes used in Restoration comedy, which The Way of the World is part of, if not the best, remain: musical beds, constant partying and lives with little meaning or true love. Obscene materialism in both eras is expressed in ridiculously expensive houses, art, clothes and jewelry. Theirs is a cult mentality that leads to fashion in drinks, food, celebrities and pretentiousness.
Congreve made it funny. Theresa Rebeck adapted the original and also directs, thereby negating a much needed balance between the two roles. She has turned the play into a sitcom that is weighed down with egregious over-acting.
Kristine Nielsen as Aunt Rene is the worst offender. However, she is to be complimented for bringing the house down with a line that echoes the recent observation by the President, "Haiti is just a sh-sh-sh-shambles."
Luigi Sottile as Henry, gives a sincere, believable performance as he morphs from playboy to suitor of Mae, (Elizabeth Huberth), the tall, leggy blonde heiress. After many permutations, their discovery of true love lowers the histrionics long enough to be sweet.
Straight and/or gay references are amusing. Elan Zafir is loud and absurd as the out-there, fun-loving Reg and Brandon Espinoza as Charles, the carefully-paced, snarky critic of all he sees, are well-cast.
The set by Alexander Dodge — with beds, tables, seats wheeled in and out as warranted— looks just right. Each of the ceiling-to-floor squares contains ludicrously expensive stiletto shoes, whimsical fascinators, and objets d'art; all of which are enhanced greatly by Donald Holder's clever lighting.
< br> As with true Restoration comedy, the costumes tell stories too. Linda Cho, the designer, has dressed her men in peacock-like attire and the women in dresses with flounces topped by gorgeous hats. But the visual appeal is diminished when the acting gets too frilly.
The Way of the World is one of 24 plays running in Washington this winter as part of the Women's Voices Theater Festival. For details go to #womensvoicesfest.
The Way of the World by William Congreve
Adapted and directed by Theresa Rebeck
Scenic Design: Alexander Dodge
Costume Design: Linda Cho
Lighting Design: Donald Holder
Cast: Erica Dorfler (Katrina); Brandon Espinoza (Charles); Eliza Huberth (Mae); Ashley Austin Morris (Waitress); Krisitine Nielsen (Rene); Daniel Morgan Shelley (Lyle); Luigi Sottile (Henry) Elan Zafir (Reg).
Running time: 2 hours plus 15-minute intermission
Folger Shakespeare Theatre, www.folger.edu/theatre.
January 9 to February 11, 2018.
Reviewed by Susan Davidson at January 14, 2018 performance.
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