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BWW Reviews: Stratford Festival's 'THE BEAUX' STRATAGEM'

THE BEAUX' STRATAGEM, directed by Stratford Festival Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino opened to raucous laughter and thunderous applause Friday night at the Stratford Festival. With a cast like this, I would not expect anything less. This fun and thoughtful restoration comedy by George Farquhar, presents audiences with many players, harboring many talents... leading to many laughs. Needless to say, I suspect MANY tickets will be sold.

'STRATAGEM' is about the adventures of Tom Aimwell and Jack Archer (Mike Shara and Colm Feore, respectively), two friends who pose as a wealthy man and his servant for the purpose of wooing rich women (and really any other women they encounter along the way), and trying to acquire as much money as possible in the process. Incredibly funny, yet with an edgy social commentary for a play written in the early 1700's, this is sure to be a hit for a variety of audiences.

Although Stratford Festival is a repertory theatre company, and it is custom for actors to be in at least two productions each season, there is something particularly enjoyable about seeing Colm Feore as tragic King Lear one day, and then as silly Jack Archer the next. Similarly, it must be a fun acting challenge for Sara Farb to portray Mr. Feore's daughter in LEAR, and a love interest in STRATAGEM-sometimes on the very same day! Oh how I love theatre!

Any memories of other productions are quickly gone; however, as the audience gets fully immersed in the silliness of Archer and Aimwell, the disillusionment of the aptly named Mrs. Sullen, played by Lucy Peacock, the youthful excitement of Bethany Jillard's Dorinda, the complete ridiculousness of Evan Buliung's Count Bellair...the list goes on and on.

Feore and Shara are as funny as they are dashing. Feore gleefully bounds about the stage, whispering sweet nothings in the ladies' ears, and Shara, well, I dare say that the physical comedy of Mike Shara is pretty much unrivaled. He is delightfully funny, but never over-the-top. Also delightfully funny is Gordon S. Miller as Scrub-who I'd say is the butler at Lady Bountiful's home, but apparently, he is only the butler on Sundays. And as for Lady Bountiful, the mother of Dorinda and of Scott Wentworth's Squire Sullen; Martha Henry gets the biggest laughs in the show, with her apparent tendency to yield...large things. It is so fun to see her in this part, and I can guarantee that audiences will leave the theatre smiling at the vision of her running down the centre of the stage hoisting an oversized sword. Robert King and Sara Farb portray Boniface the Innkeeper and his daughter, Cherry. Though their characters are more on the periphery, I enjoyed every time they were on stage. All in all, this was simply a stellar cast, and that is most certainly the winning ingredient here.

THE BEAUX STRATAGEM plays at the Festival Theatre at the Stratford Festival now through October 11th.

Photo Credit: Michael Cooper

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