Wednesday, October 10, 2012

"The Rivals" by Carnegie Mellon University

"The Rivals" by Richard Brinsley Sheridan is a comedy of manner in five acts. Mistaken identities, meddling parents and rhyming couplets abound as Jack Absolute struggles to win the heart of Lydia Languish who believes him to be Ensign Beverly, his own rival for her hand in marriage.

A beautifully rendered set featuring a giant letter suspended above the English city of Bath opens "The Rivals" currently playing at CMU. Bath, is best comparable to an 18th century English Las Vegas, is a city where anything can happen - most of which does over the course of the three hour performance. "The Rivals" is best compared to a modern "Ensemble Rom-Com". It's fun, it's funny but there are so many characters doing so many things (and talking so much) audiences may feel a bit unfilled to some character's arcs.

But, despite some character's short stage time, what is anything but unfulfilling are the performances rendered. The diversity of the young cast onstage is amazing to behold. Alexandra Spieth as Mrs. Malaprop and Lachlan McKinney as Sir Anthony Absolute steal the show as the aged parental figures who insist on marrying the mischievous Jack to the girl he already has plans to elope with (under his assumed identity).

Joseph Maddox as Bob Acres, a simple country man in search of a Bathian bride, exudes energy and down-home humor as another rival for Lydia's hand. Similarly, Jon Jorgenson and Grace Rao as Faulkland and his fiance Julia Melville deliver what is perhaps the only heartbreaking moment of the night, but with such honesty and quiet strength it really seems the play might not have such a happy ending after all. (Don't worry, it does)

The costumes by Albulena Borovci are gorgeous to behold, with the men just as beautifully and pictorially done as the women. In the midst of so many words, it is wonderful to see the ingenious physical comedy that emerges throughout the play - corsets, three-cornered hats, pantaloons and all.

Visiting director Annie Tyson clearly knows the world and where to find the comedy in even the most dense of vocabulary. It is easy to see that, when it comes to uniting beautiful language and physicality the students of Carnegie Mellon University are without Rivals.

Tickets for "The Rivals" at Carnegie Mellon University can be purchased here:,+2012

-The Eponymous Theatre Critic was waiting the entire review to make that last "rivals" joke. Just be impressed at the restraint to not fill the entire review with similar attempts.          

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