Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Rover

By West Village Bill

Yesterday evening, my friend Eugene and I saw a free performance of The Rover produced by New York Classical Theatre at various locations throughout the World Financial Center. I recommend you do the same.

The cast is clearly having a lot of fun, and the good humor is infectious. Handsome M. Scott McLean, as Willmore, the title character who has a roving eye for the ladies, and April Sweeney, as Hellena, the nunnery-bound young woman who schemes to get her and her sister married off to men they love, against the wishes of their brother, also stood out in a generally good group of actors.

Another source of fun is catching the reactions of people walking through the halls of the WFC who suddenly find themselves in the middle of a play. And also catching the nonreactions of people who are just, say, trying to deliver some food and are not caring that someone is emoting on the escalator next to theirs.

The Rover is a bawdy, fast-paced comedy of mixed-up, masquerading heterosexual couples set during Carnival in Naples, so it was especially fun to catch the show on Mardi Gras. It was written by Aphra Behn (1640–1689), whom the program describes as "the first professional female playwright in England." A few characters and a strand of plot involving a provincial man named Blunt who is duped into falling for a woman who turns out to be a whore and a thief were apparently left out of this production of the play in order to shorten it.

This Rover runs about an hour and a half, and I should warn you that there's a good deal of walking involved as you follow the cast from location to location. You're also expected to sit on the floor during most scenes of the play, and I was a little taken aback by that at first. Really? We're supposed to sit here? On the hard floor? At other times, we stood. And in the final location, the Winter Garden, you could sit on a bench beneath one of the towering palm trees as the action took place all around you. One clueless audience member sat down in a window well on the wrong side of the hallway from where we were directed and so was right in the thick of one of Vanessa Morosco's big scenes as vengeful courtesan Angellica Bianca. Morosco* humorously interacted with the woman like she was part of the cast.

The play continues running from March 10 to 13 and then from March 16 to 20.

*In her bio in the program, Morosco writes, in the third person, "Vanessa is thrilled to finally be performing where she belongs: in an actual marble palace." We love her! And by "we," I mean "Eugene and me." And, no doubt, several other gay men who've seen the play as well.

(I took the photo with my iPhone. I wasn't supposed to, but I did.)

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