Full of amusing mishaps and comical characters, “The Beaux’ Stratagem” comes to the Power Center’s stage this weekend. The play’s surprising plot twists and relatable storylines provide the audience with a new look at period pieces and their revival.
The Beaux’ Stratagem
Tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.
Originally written in 1707 by Irish playwright George Farquhar, the story was an instant success. Under Cromwell’s rule during the Puritan regime, stage performances were banned. Like other Restoration pieces — plays performed after the ban was lifted — “The Beaux’ Stratagem” evokes the fervor of the English dramatic renaissance that followed the oppression.
Priscilla Lindsay, chair of the Department of Theatre & Drama and director of the show, said the ostensibly aged piece will still be relevant to audiences because of its intended viewership when originally performed.
“What were the issues back then, what are the issues now?” Lindsay asked. “These types of plays, Restoration pieces, were written for the common man, instead of court. Issues such as sex, money and relationships were all really important.”
These themes, which were present in the inaugural production, translate to the adaptation begun by Thornton Wilder (“Our Town”) in 1939 and finished by Ken Ludwig (“Lend Me a Tenor”) in early 2005.
This version of the show, which is used by the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, follows two young gentlemen who decide to take their last bit of money and put it to practical and comical use — finding wealthy ladies to marry. Their plans go awry almost immediately.
This adaptation, though honest to the original script, gives the show new breath and meaning in this day and age.
“(Ludwig) adapted it for modern times,” Lindsay said. “He cleared away the cobwebs and took away jokes that we don’t care about or get anymore. It is very accessible for us today.”
Reed Campbell, an MT&D senior who plays Boniface, the landlord of the Boniface Inn, said he thinks that despite antiquated dress and speech, the show holds on to what’s vital.
“The thing about good theater is you can name any play that you like and you’re going to find that the majority of it you can take, put it in (the context of) today, and it will still be relevant,” Campbell said.
Characters like Boniface keep the show moving quickly, making it show fast-paced and engaging, Lindsay said.
“As the plot starts to unravel, a new character comes and — boom! — something else happens, or a new piece of information is learned and things change,” she said. “There’s a character named Lady Bountiful, the mother of one of the girls (seduced by the beaux), and she fancies herself a physician, only she kills as many as she cures.”
Campbell said he believes the unanticipated twists are what make the show slapstick and bawdy — a refreshing version of theater, unlike the minimalistic and contemporary acting that rules stages today.
“There’s a lot of physical comedy, which is awesome because in this day and age modern acting is really small, contemporary and truthful,” Campbell said. “But this is really over-the-top, and while it’s all set in reality there are big, bold jokes.”