The Beaux Stratagem features actual amusement from 18th century England
“We have heads to get money and hearts to spend it,” said a charismatic Archer in the beginning of an adventure play, The Beaux Stratagem.
George Brown College theatre arts students have finished off their three-year program by throwing a hilarious play based in 18th century England. The play might have an older setting, but is still holds current interest.
Featuring Aimwell and Archer, played by Brandon Nicoletti and Christopher Fulton respectively, the story is set in the English countryside. The two men are both seeking a king’s ransom, yet only one of them can lie without feeling it.
Remaining nameless till the very end, the two gentlemen get acquainted with a variety of typical villagers. Aimwell and Archer encounter several characters including a landlady named Boniface and her daughter Cherry, played by Shannon Murphy and Julia Vescio; Lady Bountiful played by Brina Romanek, who has cured the whole province; and a slaphappy catching highwayman played by Cassandra Potenza. Each character is surrounded by servants, who by canon are sly and clever in their own way, and, of course, graceful to their masters.
By singing and making fun of religion and English-French relations, all actors are so much into the process, that unconcealed smiles spark up at least twice throughout the play between them.
Yet the play raises important questions. Mrs. Sullen, a sneering but extremely likeable wife to a wicked and scampish husband, is played by a cunning Chelsea Woodard. Through Woodard a crucial question is asked from the early 18th century: can women be abused?
After a misogynistic joke that “no woman can be a beauty without a fortune,” a sequence of lies, lusts, fortune hunting and even a prevented robbery, everything comes to a happy end.
All lies are exposed, all feelings revealed and Mrs. Sullen, who owns herself a woman herself, leaves her useless husband behind, takes her fortune back and sets off to a promising future with a man who actually cares about her. Even her timid sister-in-law speaks up about her feelings and hopes for the future, which she has not done before simply because she was never spoken to.