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The Coward

  • Theater, Comedy
  • 2 out of 5 stars
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Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

Stage Left Theatre at Theater Wit. By Nick Jones. Directed by Vance Smith. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs; one intermission.

Theater review by Kris Vire

Nick Jones’s 2010 fops-and-robbers comedy is of a dual (and duel) nature. Broadly, this piece about an 18th-century London dandy who, pressured by his macho dad to get with the dueling times already, hires an amoral rascal to take his pistol and his place, aspires to imitate the comedies of manners of Sheridan and Goldsmith, but also to poke at those manners from a sardonic, anachronistic remove. Jones is moderately successful at both aims.

Lucidus Culling (Brian Plocharcyzk) is uninterested in the prevailing mores of his fellow noblemen; he’d rather chase butterflies and have pie picnics with his equally fey friends (Ian Daniel McLaren and Spenser Davis). But an attempt to curry favor with his father (Stephen Walker) by finally challenging another man to a duel—an act his two (dearly departed) brothers didn’t shy away from—backfires; Lucidus has the bright idea to hire an imposter (Steve Schine), which backfires worse. Soon the fake Lucidus is throwing down gauntlets and mowing down innocents all over town.

It’s a fairly clever setup, and Jones’s script is riddled with amusingly out-of-place one-liners (as when Lucidus’s dad spits disgustedly, “Your veins are filled with little girl baby urine!”) and some adroit ideas, such as the running joke that the letters of courtship between Lucidus and the comely Isabelle Dupree (a forcefully winning Kate Black-Spence) are actually being written by both parties’ fathers.

Yet aside from Black-Spence, Schine and a droll Robert McLean as Lucidus’s butler, most of the cast assumes an affected, artificial wackiness that betrays the thinness of Jones’s conceit: a sketch blown up into a two-hour play. The frequent, fussy furniture-moving scene changes in Vance Smith’s staging don’t help the sense that this thing is longer than it ought to be.

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