The Rivals – Pearl Theatre Co.

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NY Theater Review by Peter Haas

 

Considering the Pearl Theatre Company’s 30 years of superb productions of classic plays by Shakespeare, Shaw, Chekhov, Moliere and more, the troupe may be forgiven for an occasional slip. Its production of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The Rivals was one.

The entering audience was greeted by an open stage, bare save for flats painted in various dull browns; their purpose, eventually, was to allow the actors to come and go, and to permit bewigged stagehands to trundle occasional light furniture on and off in ungainly style.

Style was the issue in the acting too. It differed from actor to actor, with some – notably Pearl veterans Rachel Botchan as a lovely Julie Melville, Dan Daily properly befuddled as Sir Anthony Absolute, Sean McNall, natural as Sir Lucius O’Trigger, and Cary Donaldson, as the romantic lead, Captain Jack Absolute – performing their roles in warm and believable style. Missing, however, was the sense of a single, cohesive ensemble whose acting arose from the play itself. Pearl veteran Carol Schulz, as the word-mangling Mrs. Malaprop (whose name today is synonymous with that trait), spoke, shouted and swallowed the humor inherent in her character’s pretentiousness. Several other actors, delivering their speeches, in volumes that differed from those of their stage-mates, simply called attention to the fact that they were acting – each in their own productions.

The Pearl’s new Artistic Director, Hal Brooks, has guest-directed individual productions for the company before, and for many theater groups across the country. No doubt The Pearl Theatre’s decades-celebrated style will snap back into place with future productions.

“The Rivals” continues through May 25 at the Pearl Theater Company, 555 West 42nd Street, Clinton;

212-563-9261, pearltheatre .org.

Photo: Al Foote III

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