The Coward

By Nick Jonesstage left theatre

Directed by Vance Smith

Produced by Stage Left Theatre

At Theater Wit, Chicago

Hilarious stylized satire of 18th Century manners plays with manic energy by a dedicated cast.

Nick Jones is a contemporary playwright who is channeling Sheridan or Goldsmith with his spoof of 18thy Century aristocrat’s sense of honor and masculinity as played out in dueling violence. This hilarious comedy looks great (costumes by Aly Renee Amidei) with generous use of flint-lock pistols as the dedicated cast nails all the satire contained. While The Coward is intentionally played for laughs, it also contains an attack on the gentry’s code of honor that is fueled by violence through the use of pistol-firing duels.

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Set in the 1790’s, Lucidus Culling (terrific performance by Brian Plocharcyzk) is a cowardly young gentleman who hate violence as he just wants to study bugs and butterflies to his father’s dismay. Nathaniel Culling (the intense Stephan Walker) demands that his son protect the family honor by dueling with anyone who insults the family.  So when the hapless Lucidus initiates a duel, father is pleased but Lucidua is terrified at the thought. His foppish pals, Gavin (Ian McLaren) and Robert (Spenser Davis) understand Lucidus’ fear. Robert suggest that he hires a common criminal to fight the duel in his place.  Henry Blaine (the charismatic Steve Schine) makes the duel a bloody mess as British society now thinks Lucidus to be a fierce combatant.

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To add to Lusidus’ troubles, his father initiates love letters on behalf of his son to the ravaging beauty Isabelle Dupree (the hilarious over-the-top Kate Black-Spence). She is a bloodthirsty woman whose attraction to Lucidus is framed by his fighting reputation. When the rascal Henry keeps arrange duels as Lucidus, our gentle fey lad the real Lucidus tries to free himself from dueling bur his father now adapts (sort of) Henry as the son he always wanted, Lucidus hatches a plan to stop all the madness of dueling.

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Since the quickly and easily like the winsome, gentle  Lucidus as played by the honest, empathetic Brian Plocharcyzk (doing his best work to date), we cheer for this sweet soul to get out of his presentiment without being shot. The  manic dueling scenes are cleverly and humorously staged as an intentionally ridiculous   comedy who play fun with the concept of masculinity and personal honor. This silly comedy is so playfully staged that the totality of the show justifies its existence. We laugh and appreciate the stagecraft and the brave, blood-soaked work by the entire cast.

Besides Plocharcyzk’s honest performance, Stephen Walker’s dominant father, Steve Schine’s delightful scoundrel and Robert McLean’s work as four characters including a Jeeves-like butler were particularly noteworthy. This is a fun period piece that reeks of satire with clever staging garnering laughs as it ridicules the vain concept of honor through violence as a measure of one’s worth. The Coward is an old-fashion period comedy that is pure fun.

Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Jeff Recommended

Date Reviewed: September 7, 2014

For more info checkout The Coward page at theatreinchicago.com

At Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont, Chicago, IL, call 773-975-8150, www.stagelefttheatre.com,tickets $20-$30, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours with intermission, through October 5, 2014