12:13 AM, Mar. 27, 2011
It's going to be a trick to catch the new one — the new offering at the Blackfriars Playhouse, that is — because it's receiving the shortest run of any of the plays in the 2011 Actors' Renaissance Season.
By the time you read this, you'll have just over a week, until April 1, to see Thomas Middleton's 1605 comedy, "A Trick to Catch the Old One." But, if you like nonstop tomfoolery and a healthy dose of earthy humor, it could be worth your while to get the lead out and head on down to the Blackfriars.
First of all, what's it about? In brief, "Trick" is a satire about an indebted young playboy who has mortgaged his estates to a money- lending uncle, and who creates a little wealth for himself by pretending to be affianced to a rich widow (a former mistress, actually). The plot thickens considerably when a rival moneylender steals the "rich widow" and marries her himself, not knowing that she is neither rich nor a widow. Meanwhile, the playboy secretly marries his true love, who happens to be the daughter of the moneylender who has married the "rich widow."
Middleton, a prolific author who was equally adept at comedy or tragedy, wrote "Trick" early in his career and, using the wit and scathing cynicism that would stamp most of his works, depicted with often biting humor a society dazzled by material wealth.
Secondly, is it easy to watch? As you can probably glean from the above very truncated description, the plot of "Trick" is elaborate perhaps to the point of convolution. Therein, however, lies part of its charm, for while it may be difficult for 2011 audiences to keep up with fast-paced 1605 story lines, it's not something that requires a degree in Jacobean dramaturgy to enjoy. The play tends to sweep you along whether you're ready for it or not, carrying you from one laughing point to another with unflagging regularity.
And it is funny, even if you judge the play by nothing more than the names of some of the characters: Theodorus Witgood, Pecunious Lucre, Walkadine Hoard, Moneylove, and my personal favorite, Harry Dampit.
All these characters are larger than life (indeed, they're almost caricatures of themselves) played by actors with larger than life talent. Gregory Jon Phelps is roguish but likable as playboy Witgood; John Harrell slips comfortably and hilariously into the avaricious shoes of Pecunious Lucre; and Benjamin Curns delights as an equally greedy Walkadine Hoard.
But for sheer comic domination, we have Tyler Moss as usurer Harry Dampit. Moss has the play in the palm of his hand, giving us a wild, unforgettably funny character that registers somewhere between Mick Jagger and Bob Guccione. Miriam Donald as Jane, Witgood's former mistress and the "rich widow" at the center of the play, is wonderfully sexy and conniving as any good courtesan should be, but effortlessly makes us believe her reformation at the end of the play is for real.
Chris Johnston, Jeremiah Davis, Paul Jannise, Jeremy West. Allison Glenzer, Sarah Fallon and Patrick Midgley also star.
For best seats order Trick to Catch the Old One tickets now.
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Actors' Renaissance Season