‘Clandestine’ Offers Glimpse of Garrick’s Work
For a taste of David Garrick’s playwriting talents, head to the Folger Theatre for “The Clandestine Marriage,” a delightful romp through 18th-century love and marriage, and the attendant contractual negotiations these entail.
The play, which Garrick co-wrote with George Colman for Drury Lane Theatre’s 1765-1766 season, centers on the matrimonial prospects of the daughters of one Mr. Sterling (Michael Tolaydo), a jovial parvenu plagued by a Cockney accent and an unmitigated zest for business. When Sir John Melvil (Ian Merrill Peakes), the dullard fiancé of Sterling’s eldest daughter, the choleric Betsey (Susan Lynskey), arrives with his pompous uncle, Lord Ogleby (Ted van Griethuysen), in tow, both men soon fall for Fanny, the sweeter, younger, if decidedly less interesting sister played by Jenna Sokolowski.
“There’s more plague than pleasure in a secret,” a maid presciently notes in the opening scene, and the lesson is amusingly driven home as the following two and a half hours unfold.
Fanny must suffer fools gladly, literally, as both Melvil and Ogleby boorishly hound her — all because she and her father’s pusillanimous, though well-meaning, apprentice, Mr. Lovewell (Aubrey Deeker), are hiding the fact they’ve already tied the knot. Then there’s “the bun in the oven,” as the playbill delicately puts it, that not even Fanny’s husband knows about.
The play is bolstered by a light, amusing script, which trips along in spurts of ridiculous hilarity, and a standout cast. Lawrence Redmond as Canton, Ogleby’s sycophantic Swiss valet, had a recent audience in stitches with his humorous take on the foreign manservant’s fussy idiosyncrasies. Likewise, Lynskey’s Betsey, sporting a hot pink gown, red hair and a fiery desire to humiliate her younger sibling, is a riot as a hyena-like shrew with an eye on the bottom line. Abetting Betsey in her cause is her equally status-conscious aunt, Mrs. Heidelberg, performed by Catherine Flye with appropriate aplomb.
But van Griethuysen’s Ogleby, a preening dandy who delights in applying powder and rouge to his wrinkled cheeks, steals the show. As the delusional old gentleman struts across the stage in a brocade dressing gown, his hair done up in bows, marveling at his beauty, he channels all the considerable powers of his natural comedic successor — the Victorian matriarch.
“The Clandestine Marriage” runs through May 22 at the Folger Theatre. For tickets, call (202) 544-7077 or go to https://www.folger.edu.