DC: Shakespeare Theatre's Way of the World

The Way of the World by William Congreve is a masterpiece of Restoration Comedy and Restoration Confusion. It has a famously convoluted plot, made more difficult by the fact that the leading couple’s names are Millamant and Mirabell. And when the play isn’t in front of me, I have a hard time remembering which is which. I won’t even try to summarize the plot; just take my word that it is full of affairs and assignations, all undertaken with great wittiness.

Last year’s production of The Beaux' Strategm, also directed by Michael Kahn, was hugely entertaining. But the Way of the World does not live up to that. The design elements, a set washed in creams and costumes in more shades of green than you ever thought possible, sound good on paper, but when they are before your eyes, they just don’t work. The lightness of touch missing from the design is also missing from the performances, and the play seems to drag under its own weight.

The production is at its best when Veanne Cox (Millamant) is onstage. She flits about the stage in a flirtatious manner, successfully allowing the audience to see what Archer finds both so alluring and so infuriating. The rest of the cast is stuffed full of some of the very best actors in DC. But even they are not able to breathe life into this production. Nancy Robinette, Andrew Long, Floyd King, these are all actors that are very good at what they do – and that perhaps is the problem. Almost everyone in this play is playing parts we have seen them play before. We know what they are going to do and how they are going to do it; there is nothing exciting about it.

Through November 16th
2 stars


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