Monday, September 21, 2015

Review: A New Kind of Country Wife

The Restoration Comedy was not only meant to entertainment but bring light to certain social issues. William Wycherley's The Country Wife was known for, at the time, its controversial sexual exploits. In Spicy Witches Productions of the Wycherley classic, the action is transported to the turn of the twentieth century with a tinge of an androgynous lens.
Directed and adapted by Phoebe Brooks, this take on The Country Wife features an ensemble of fast-talking, hijinks loving characters enthralled in proving the people around them wrong. Set in 1905 England sans accents, Brooks takes the audience on a journey through the time. Layering subtly clues of women's rights into the world, Brooks puts a slightly new spin on the play. The piece is transformed into something, at times, almost unrecognizable. With the gender-bending androgyny lens, there’s a new feeling to the piece. Horner, who once was a man on a mission to trick and seduce, is now just tired of the player lifestyle and finds his inner, lady. Brooks still guides him on a journey of getting into doors he shouldn’t, but Horner is no longer the typical womanizer. There’s a genuine heart within. With a new vision that seemed to depart from the original, Brooks only touches upon the sexual humor of Wycherley’s text. The first time it was truly noticeable was during the Act II scene between Horner, Fidget, and Squeamish. The bawdy sex jokes were a plenty and the audience loved it. Finding those moments earlier on would have greatly benefitted the overall view and buffoonery of the plot .
photo by Jessica Briggs
The acting ensemble seemed to find great amusement taping into Wycherley’s world of entrapment. With a new perspective on Horner, Zach Bryant illuminates the stage. Bryant is spry and just a joy to watch. He found great identity within the character, allowing freedom to shine. As Margery Pinchwife, Katie Fanning was more than just the simple country housewife. Fanning lights up, bringing a gleeful smile to every scene. On the spectrum of naivety, Tim Haber’s Jack Pinchwife played up the confident foolishness. Haber was strong and assertive, finding humor in his foolery. Hannah Hammel and Samantha Nugent as Lady Dainty Fidget and Old Lady Squeamish had nothing but fun playing off of Bryant’s Horner. They both discovered ways of temptation to try to win him over.
Utilizing the space seemed to benefit Brooks and her team. The scenic elements by Robert Bursztyn featured some dominating red doors. The bold color threw the piece off kilter a bit. Despite that, having the doors present at all times aided in the farcical elements of the play. The blend of period furniture placed in the downstage corners allowed Brooks to use angles and site lines in a strong manner. The costumes by Alex Rozansky gave great personality to each character, though Horner’s robe was a bit too dominating in this laid back world of color. The soundscape by Andrew Tarr mixed a bit of ragtime with sounds that evoked the restoration period. Yet somehow, they did not pair well.
This new take on The Country Wife surely called into question a new series of themes and ideas. But as a whole, it just didn’t wow.