RBT: The Woman Hater

“…wear out the drums of his ear…” Sir Roderick, the Woman Hater, describing a man’s destiny in life if he were living with a woman!

And Sir Roderick’s defiant misogynistic comment could at once describe the rabbit hole that playwright FRANCES BURNEY presents us with in The Woman Hater. Certainly a satire, we soon have a comedy of class and manners and love.

Not unlike other rather prominent authors from the English isles, we have comedic and tragic actions based on misinformation and mis-identities and missed connections…the stress on the viewer in anticipation of the next miscue, or better yet, resolution, at first intolerable becomes delightful.

And words, words, words. It took me a while to get into this play. Not for lack of trying on the part of the Red Bull Theater, cast and director. They regaled the words with everything at their disposal…but I was overwhelmed at first…my ear drums were wearing out…and I think it’s Ms. Burney’s issue! Although this might work better on stage too…the movement from character to character as their scenes and speaking roles change can be a bit distracting in Zoom.

screen capture by AIP

But once I got acclimated, this became an enchanting and frustrating (in a good way).exhibition. And we want to fall in love with all of the characters at one point or other…and we will as the story progresses. But knowing the whole story as we do as audience, you just want to jump into the screen and tell everyone what’s what…as one character follows poor advice…and the next mistakes someone for a third party…and everyone has only part of the story because they are ALL afraid to be forthright…and we have seventeen years of this similar deceit and denial and ignoring of feelings to fill in and overcome and eventually forgive.

And don’t overlook the two comedic relief characters here. They both play key roles and both love words. There is of course Lady Smatter who presents herself as a lady of letters who apparently is spending her fortune to support poets in exchange for the flattery of inscriptions or dedications to herself! The joke here is she quotes them incessantly and constantly but incompletely and inaccurately and continually via the wrong attributions. And this is all portrayed with the proper edge by VEANNE COX. And the other is Arnie Burton as Old Waverly who seems to be a wordsmith…well at least when he is assigning attributes to others. Just an amazing sequence as he peers out from under his powdered wig!

And kudos to EVERETT QUINTON for pulling this off…this is not an easy timeline to keep straight while also recognizing the shifting moods and relationships and then being able to move the actors to each specific action and scene…watching that interplay is a joy in itself.

And the the cast here…this is an intense and fast moving play….with as I think I said…words, words, words…and these words are all important and not necessarily easy dialogue to follow or perform. Just an amazing accomplishment by all hands…particularly in the Zoom virtual format rather than on stage in person with the usual cues and habituations. Here is the cast list of these amazing people:

Young Waverly……………………………………NICK WESTRATE
Wilmot | Old Waverly…………………………ARNIE BURTON
Steward………………………………………………BILL ARMY
Sir Roderick………………………………………..MATTHEW SALDIVAR
Lady Smatter……………………………………..VEANNE COX
Nurse | Prim | Phebe………………………….JENNE VATH
Sophia | Joyce……………………………………CHERIE CORINNE RICE
Eleonora ……………………………………………REBECCA S’MANGA FRANK

screen capture by AIP

And thank you for the great costumes and props…and the careful orchestration of passing off the several props from one character to another…who were of course in separate frames and miles apart…not something that other theater groups have put enough thought into. RBT nailed it!!!

Well, as Milton said, “All’s Well That Ends Well” or was it Spencer?

This presentation will be available online for free (but please send them a donation, they deserve it). The recording is available until 7:00 PM EDT on Friday, January 29 – then it disappears.

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