Friday, February 17, 2006

The first Masquers production of 2006 will be William Wycherley's "The Country Wife," a Restoration comedy. Performances will be held on March 2-4 and 9-11 at 7:30 p.m. and March 5 at 2 p.m., all in the Wallman Hall Theatre. For tickets, call the Box Office at (304) 367-4240.

Guest Director Jeffrey Ingman, who has rewritten and updated the 17th-century work into a roaring 20s production, has cast the following: Michael Fluharty (Mr. Horner); Daniel Crowley (Mr. Harcourt); Seth Williams (Mr. Dorilant); Patrick Sibbett (Mr. Pinchwife); Steve McElroy (Mr. Jasper Fidget); John Piscitelli (Sparkish); Melissa Testa (Mrs. Margery Pinchwife); Jessica Jirak-McGinn (Alithea); Sara Rowan (My Lady Fidget); Kimmy Higgenbotham (Mrs. Dainty Fidget); Dana Sayre (Mrs. Squeamish); Cathy O'Dell (Old Lady Squeamish); Michael Vozniak (A boy/Bookseller/Parson); Amanda Carrico (A Quack); Amanda Bowles (Lucy); Dylan Callery (A Waiter) and Brittany Stire (A Waiter).

Three sources and three plots intertwine and add complications to an already-complicated theatrical structure. The three are: Horner's impotence "trick;" the married life of the Pinchwife and Margery; and the courtship of Harcourt and Alithea. Horner's impotence--a sham--gains him free access to wives of many men, thus permitting him a string of seductions. Margery, of the Pinchwife couple, is the Country Wife of the play's title. Mr. Pinchwife married Margery, an ignorant country girl, precisely so that he would have an innocent wife who would not cuckold him with his friends--a good idea gone wrong when Horner teaches her the art of seduction and she, without urban sophistication, nonetheless cuts a swath through London society. The final love story is a conventional one, serving as a contrast to the first two plots.

Restoration theatre threw off the constraints of the Puritans with the restoration of the English monarchy in 1660. The Restoration playwrights include John Dryden, Aphra Behn, George Etherege, William Congreve and William Wycherley. Reflecting the newly-restored court life, "these plays celebrate a lifestyle of sexual intrigue and conquest, especially conquest that served to humiliate the husbands of the London middle classes and to avenge, in the sexual arena, the marginalization and exile suffered by royalists under Cromwell."