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Venue: The Mountain, Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church
Friday, July 23, 8 p.m. Saturday, July 24, 3 p.m.
They say: “Gilbert’s precursor to Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest, an entanglement of engagements, inheritance stipulations, and Scottish/English class dichotomy. This farcical comedy follows the shameless flirtations of a cad, and the train wrecks that both cause and follow them.”
Chris’s take: Just so were clear, the first thing you might want to know about the Victorian Lyric Opera Companys production of Engaged is that it is not an opera but a straight play. Written in 1877, Engaged was a comic hit by W.S. Gilbert, the wordsmith of Gilbert and Sullivan. As such it has all the elements of a Victorian light opera except music.
The plot centers on Cheviot Hill, a young man of property, who somehow manages to fall rapturously in love with every woman he meets. The comic upshot of this is that he finds himself simultaneously engaged to three women: fiery Belinda, who not-so-incidentally is also engaged to Cheviots frenemy Belvawney; simpering Minnie Symperson, Cheviots cousin; and a Scottish lassie named Maggie. The trouble is that under a peculiar Scottish legality, he may or may not have unwittingly married Belinda.
As is the case in most comedies, theres the sense that in the end Jack will have Jill, though it is unclear until nearly the very end which Jack will have which Jill. Bride-in-legal-limbo Belinda just happens to be a dear friend of Minnie, and while they are waiting, the two of them let themselves be entertained by Belvawney, who declares his passionate love for the woman who doesn’t end up married to Cheviot, whichever she may be.
The production is by-the-book, with few overt signs of directorial imprint. This, and the sheer stripped-down nature of all Fringe shows, puts attention on the performances. The one to watch is David Dubov at Cheviot. Theres a bit of the young Gene Wilder in his performance, which is all about the eyes, the eyebrows, and the folds at the edge of his mouthall indicators of his own perplexity at the situation in which he finds himself.
See it if: You enjoy works by Gilbert and Sullivan, Oscar Wilde, or Eugene Scribe.
Skip it if: You expect the fully fleshed-out Victorian atmospherics that the Shakespeare Theatre Company would lend to a play of this genre.