Behn There, Done That: Echo Theatre Sets an Antique Farce in the Swingin' '60s

What's it all about, Aphra? Echo Theatre continues its season of plays by 17th century wit Aphra Behn with the Restoration farce The Lucky Chance, or The Alderman's Bargain, directed by René Moreno, running one more weekend at the Bath House Cultural Center.

Behn (rhymes with "rain") is regarded as England's first woman professional playwright. Like her other plays, The Lucky Chance deals with young women rebelling against marriages of convenience and longing to be with their true loves; Behn made the case for romantic love in an age when girls were often forced to wed geezers out of financial need.

Such is the case of pretty Leticia (Martha Harms), dreading her wedding night with old Sir Feeble Fainwood (Bradley Campbell). She's married him after believing his lie that her lover, young Bellmour (Austin Tindle), has died in Ireland. Another young beauty, Lady Julia Fulbank (Laura Alons), is hitched to crusty Sir Cautious Fulbank (Adrian Spencer Churchill), though she's really in love with handsome Mr. Gayman (Brandon Sterrett).

The play's antique language takes some getting used to, despite the cast's remarkably crisp delivery of lines such as Sir Feeble's "Ads bobs, but they frighted me at first basely. But I'll home to Pupsey, there may be Roguery, as well as here." Moreno and his actors make excellent sense of the dialogue's corkscrews and curlicues, though, and hit the comedy right on the nose.

Moreno's also added the clever conceit of setting the play in the swingin' London of the 1960s. Characters stop with the funny talk and lip sync old pop tunes by Herman's Hermits and Dusty Springfield that layer additional commentary on the action. (Choreography by Sara Romersberger draws mainly on ye olde go-go steps like "The Jerk" and "The Watusi.")

There hasn't been a better looking show on the Dallas boards this year. Scenery by Clare Floyd DeVries covers the little Bath House stage in the shiny stripes of the Union Jack, with lots of doors and a hideaway bed among the levels. The cute-as-crumpets actors are dressed in expertly fitted '60s fashions designed by Ryan Matthieu Smith. Harms' Leticia, hair swooped into a shiny bob, thick eyelashes brushing her cheeks, could be Julie Christie in Darling. Alons' Lady Julia wears a sleek Sassoon-style wig and Pucci caftans. As Mr. Gayman, Sterrett resembles Jude Law's natty playboy Alfie. Other characters, fops and fools mostly, look like Austin Powers, Andy Warhol and Judy Carne on Laugh-In. Campbell wears a polyester suit the color of lime sherbet, bellowing hilariously as Sir Feeble, as lovable a lecher as any Shakespeare ever wrote.

It's all tremendous fun for about two hours. Then The Lucky Chance keeps going for another 45 minutes. That's too much of a good thing. It really is OK to edit these old scripts. Who'd know the difference?

 
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