Oscar E Moore

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The Libertine – Racy Restoration Saga Off B’way

November 9th, 2010 by Oscar E Moore

The Libertine, by British playwright Stephen Jeffreys, if produced on Broadway could be the seasons “snob” hit – a British import based on historical characters.  But as presented at the intimate Off Broadway Kirk Theatre it lacks a movie star marquee name in the lead role of John Wilmot – the second Earl of Rochester a Restoration rake, satirist, poet, patron of the arts, lothario and all around schmuck to insure standing room only.

In fact, The Libertine was made into a movie in 2005 starring Johnny Depp which runs 1 hour 54 minutes – much shorter than the almost three hour talk fest at the Kirk.  Not that Joseph W. Rodriguez isn’t up to the part – he most certainly is.

But asking an audience to invest so much time with an unlikable character is perhaps asking too much.  What does he want?  He wants what he wants when he wants it.  To be accepted for his own high estimation of himself.  To be with his wife (Sarah Koestner) in the country and his whore Jane (Libby Arnold) in London.  And then when he becomes infatuated with actress Elizabeth Barry (Patricia Duran) he asks her to give it all up for him.  Pretty cheeky cad.

As he says in his opening monologue we won’t like him.  And he’s right.  Not the actor, the character.  Mr. Rodriquez does an outstanding job at being charming, sexually driven, reptilian and repulsive delivering the full depth of his character.

This accomplished production, presented by Playhouse Creatures Theatre Company, makes a grand and impressive effort of bringing this long winded historical drama to life – sexually simulated acts included.  When your mind begins to wander, as it will, not paying too close to what is being said in dialogue that is oft times poetic and archaic you will marvel at the production values.

An ingenious set design by Laura Taber Bacon keeps the action merrily rolling along with its panoramic scene divided into eight panels (with a reflective back side) that allow director Eric Tucker to cleverly stage the many locations in the script by having the panels moved into varying configurations.  Chairs and tables and a four poster bed on casters help the cinematic approach.  The rich costumes (Angela Huff) lighting (Les Dickert) original music (Edward Davis – there is an amusing Act II song “Senor Dildo” that will stick in your mind) and plenty of perfect period wigs and make-up to keep your eyes busy while the story drones on and on.

The cast of nine deserves to be commended for their honesty, diction and bravery in this saga of a bi-sexual troublemaker (Wilmot) who is banished by King Charles II (a scene stealing Eric Doss who doubles as manservant Tom Alcock) when he writes a pornographic representation of the royal court while his peer George Etheridge (Ross Bennett Hurwitz) writes a successful The Man of Mode based on Wilmot.  Tom O’Keefe and Harry Oram complete the bewigged and bemused “merry wits”.

Through November 20th.  Tickets $18.00

www.theatrerow.org www.playhousecreatures.org

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