By Eric J. Grimm
Everyday Inferno Theatre Company, who produced last year’s excellent production of The Turn of the Screw at Morris-Jumel Mansion, take on a criminally undervalued seventeenth century classic in their new production of Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker’s The Roaring Girl. The raucous sex comedy is a robustly feminist work, which has surprisingly never received a major New York production until now. The cast and creative team, led by director Anais Koivisto, are game to revive interest in the play, making for a brisk and lively evening of theater.
Middleton and Dekker’s romantic comedy covers well-charted territory in its overstuffed plot. Sebastian (Jacob Owen) wants to marry Mary (Anna Clare Kerr) but her dowry is not sufficient for his father, Alexander (Matt Walker). Sebastian spends much of the play trying to convince Alexander that he is actively courting Moll (Malloree Hill), the titular “roaring girl,” so that Alexander will approve of Mary, a more conventional bride. Moll’s cross-dressing and swashbuckling ways make her a terrifying potential daughter-in-law for Alexander, who calls upon hired knave Ralph Trapdoor (Max Hunter) to ruin her.
There are a few too many subplots involving deceitful and lust-filled men and women around London who barely figure into the main narrative, but the performers are always a thrill to watch. Most compelling among the secondary characters is Mistress Gallipot (Erin Beirnard), the wife of the local tobacconist. Her swindling at the hands of lothario Laxton (Joel DeCandio) is played to hilarity in a scene where she requests audience assistance in interpreting a nonsensical love letter from her money-seeking suitor. Beirnard easily transitions from wistfulness to craftiness and ultimately to disappointment as Gallipot finds herself a pawn in Laxton’s ongoing game.
The production largely succeeds due to Malloree Hill, who gives Moll a classic hero’s confidence and disdain for others’ amoral deeds. Moll’s sharp tongue cuts as surely as her rapier and Hill is every bit the capable performer that the character deserves. Hill is the least frenetic of the company, but her grounded performance allows her to carry the show exactly as the title character should.
The Roaring Girl is playing at Access Theatre Gallery (380 Broadway) through June 21st. Tickets are available at http://punksandprovocateurs.bpt.me/.
Photos: Anais Koivisto