The work of a cast of 24 actors and a crew of 17 set and costume designers, lighting directors, dance and fight choreographers and sound operators made its début last night as the Boardmore Theatre introduced its production of The Roverto a sizable and appreciative audience.
Written by English author Aphra Behn in the 1670’s, The Rover was a very popular comedy of the Restoration period, bringing its risqué exploration of sexuality to stages less than 20 years after the end of the Puritan ban on theatre. Adapted by Scott Sharplin and directed by Sheila Christie, the Boardmore Theatre’s production is a fast paced, witty and colorful affair embellished with music by Ken Chisholm and Alicia Penney; elaborate costume designed by Barb Longva and a detailed and vibrant set designed by Kyle Capstick.
The story features multiple plots, dealing with the amorous adventures of a group of Englishmen in Naples during Carnival. Deception perpetrated at every turn by eavesdropping lovers in Carnival masks and the script’s old English can make for a slightly confusing experience for an audience member. Thankfully Wikipedia offers a concise overview of the entwined stories:
The “rover” of the play’s title is Willmore (Todd Hiscock), a rake and naval captain, who falls in love with a young woman named Hellena (Nicole MacDougall), who has set out to experience love before her brother sends her to a convent. Complications arise when Angellica Bianca (Candice Ziolkowski), a famous courtesan who falls in love with Willmore, swears revenge on him for his betrayal. In another plot, Hellena’s sister Florinda (Jenn Tubrett) attempts to marry her true love, Colonel Belvile (Paul Bickerton), rather than the man her brother has selected, Don Antonio (James FW Thompson). The third major plot of the play deals with the provincial Blunt (Jason Campbell), who becomes convinced that Lucetta (Morningstar Pinto) has fallen in love with him but is humiliated when she turns out to be a prostitute and a thief.
Professor and playhouse manager Hiscock brings great energy and experience to the role of Willmore who liberally deploys his quick wit while attempting to beguile the professional Angellica and the nun in training Hellena. MacDougall’s pixie like comportment lent itself well to the role of the mischievous Hellena while Ziolkowski’s Angellica kept the poise and aloofness required of a costly escort, even as she found herself falling for the assertive Willmore.
Tubrett and Bickerton are well cast as the two young innocents whose seemingly doomed true love contrasts the duplicity and selfishness of the others’ affairs. Campbell shines as the buffoon Blunt whose blundering is a source of constant embarrassment, even when revenging earlier humiliations. All of the main male characters also succeed when operating in the physical dimensions of the play’s many rowdy knife fights or post-coital, drunken or rage induced stupors.
The Rover runs each night at 7:00pm at Cape Breton University’s Boardmore Playhouse until Saturday, February 5th and again Sunday, February 6th at 2pm.