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A CurtainUp Review

By Liz Keill

Amy Irving
Amy Irving
(Photo: T. Charles Erickson )
Celadine, a world premiere at George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, is filled with clever dialogue, intriguing characters and charming moments. It's by Charles Evered who wrote last yearís "Wilderness of Mirrors which also premiered at George Street.

The title character, portrayed by spirited actress Amy Irving, is a playwright in the 17th century and a former mistress of Charles II. You wouldnít think that this would be much basis for a plot, but it all comes together with infectious style and wit.

Matt Pepper as Elliot, a thespian, visits Celadine in hopes of commissioning her to write him a play. But there are hints of deception and intrigue afoot. A wayfarer, Rowley, enters the scene. Not to give too much of the plot away, but Charles II is also engaged in this charade. Michael Countryman is hilarious in his dual roles. Leslie Lyles is wonderfully brash and amusing as Mary, Celadineís confidant. Then we have Rob Eigenbrod appearing as Jeffrey, a young man who cannot speak, but prances around like a horse and communicates by sign language. As the women agree, the fact he doesnít talk makes him "the perfect man."

Itís all light and lyrical, with one hilarious scene following another. When Jeffrey, who is a tailor by trade, is asked to mend Celadineís petticoat, he crawls under her skirt to do so. Then, of course, Elliot arrives, not quite knowing how to respond to a man obviously doing something beneath a womanís skirt. Ms. Irving handles the situation with aplomb. Thereís a certain take on pompous behavior as well, as when the kingís every entrance is met with trumpets blaring, which he must insist on quieting down.

Everything meshes like clockwork under David Saintís impecciable direction. Feast your eyes on Michael Ananiaís set -- perhaps more reminiscent of a tavern than a home --but still handsome with stone fireplace, pewter tankards and copper pots. Joe Saintís lush, autumnal lighting suffuses the stage with a mellow look. Costumes by David Murin are frivolous and fun and Ms. Irving is ravishing in the central role. Henry Purcellís music lends its own exuberant touch.

For anyone with a taste for history, this play, while purely fictional, has enough Restoration footnotes to make it both entertaining and believable. It seems there were playwrights during the reign of Charles II who were also spies. Charles was known as the Merry Monarch and ruled England and Ireland from 1660 to 1685. He was also a great patron of the arts and playwright, Aphra Behn was one of his mistresses. During his reign, London suffered the plague of 1665, which killed 68,000 people, a quarter of the population. The Great Fire of 1666 destroyed 80 percent of the city, including St. Paulís Church. In addition, Charles weathered shifts from the Church of England to restoring Catholicism and back again.

While all of this lends historic background, there is no sense of being involved in a dull history lesson. Celadine moves with flair and keeps its audience riveted for its less than two-hour running time.
Written by Charles Evered
Directed by David Saintí
Cast: Michael Countryman, Amy Irving, Leslie Lyles, Matt Pepper and Rob Eigenbrod
Set Design: Michael Anania
Costume Design: David Murin
Lighting Design: Joe Saint
Sound Design: Christopher J. Bailey
Running time: two hours, includes a 15-minute intermission.
George Street Playhouse, 9 Livingston Ave., New Brunswick 732-246-7717.
11/16/04 to 12/12/04
Reviewed by Liz Keill based on 11/21/04 performance
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