The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings





Etcetera and
Short Term Listings



LA/San Diego






Free Updates
Writing for us
A CurtainUp Review
The Gentleman Dancing-Master
By Shirley Safran

On Restoration Comedy or Comedy of Manners: . . . depicted the world of its audience, a moneyed and elegant world, a world of wits and rakes, of fops and dandies. Plots resolved around the eternal subjects of attempted seduction and adultery, and the seeking of fortunes through the manipulation af marriage alliances-all counterposed to the successful working out of a romance. . . . The plots had all the stylized and complicated intrigue-none of it to be taken seriously-of the old Commedia dell'Arte farce, but the subject of the comedy was really the hypocrisy, vanity and double-dealing of the elegant world which was itself the comedy's chief audience: human frailty behind a charming mask of wit, intelligence, and elegance. --- Marion Geisinger, Plays, Players and Playwrights

Marsha Stephanie Blake & Sean McNall
Sean McNall
(Photo: Gregory Costanzo)
If you've heard of William Wycherley at all, then you may have seen his most famous and ubiquitous play The Country Wife somewhere. This production, however, of The Gentleman Dancing-Master represents the New York premiere of this virtually unknown 1671 play. It first appeared in London in 1671, followed by 5 English stagings from 1926 to 1967. The only previous American showing was in 1979, a University production in New Haven. This is truly an out-of-left-field choice, but in this presentation, a happy one. A brief summary of the plot clearly shows Moliere's influence (Wycherley spent some time in Paris, and probably encountered his work, if not the playwright himself).

The 14 year old daughter, Hippolita, of a strict, though absentee father, is betrothed against her will to her cousin, an outrageous, frenchified dandy. Her father, having lived in Spain and now calling himself Don Diego, affects the dress and manner of Spain (including a hilarious Castilian lisp). In order to avoid marrying her foppish cousin, she tricks him into introducing her to a man he disdains, who turns out to be the handsome and charming Gerard. Not surprisingly, when they meet in secret, they fall in love. When they are discovered by her father, Gerard is forced to pretend to be her dancing master, though he can neither dance nor sing. The deception works despite Hippolita's aunt, Mrs. Caution, who, true to her name, desperately attempts to reveal the lovers' machinations, which she sees through. After numerous giddy twists and turns, it all ends happily of course.

The pert and wily Hippolita is a lady ahead of her time, despite her youth. She will only marry for love, and is not above testing Gerard's devotion with the bold (untrue) assertion that she has no money of her own. He, however, remains stalwart in his affections. Marsha Stephanie Black is adorable as Hippolita, with just enough steel to make her a real person. The rest of the cast is equally splendid, with special praise for Sean McNall as Hippolita's cousin, Monsieur de Paris, and for Dan Daily as Don Diego. Their scenes together reach the heights of inspired lunacy. Mr. McNall, attired in pink pantaloons, frilly blouse and a pink peruke seemingly fashioned from spun sugar, looks as though he wandered in from the Village Halloween parade. His garbled French accent, a kind of patois, is a perfect foil for Don Diego's nutty Spanish accent. They are the comic heart of the play, wildly over the top, yet always in control (a function of solid acting technique).

One small quibble: at almost 3 hours, the performance is a trifle long, even after judicious cuts. But the theatrical conventions of the period required songs and extended sword play, so do go. The times are grim and a little laughter never hurt anyone.

The Pearl, in its 21st year is a cultural treasure (pun intended). It brings to the theatre scene every year intelligent and imaginative productions of the standard classical repertoire, as well as the occasional forgotten one, such as this one.

By William Wycherley
Directed by Gus Kaikkonen
Cast: Marsha Stephanie Blake, Robie Leslie Brown, Dan Daily, Sean McNall, Ryland Blackinton, Rachel Botchan, Bradford Cover, John Livingstone Rolle, Heather Girardi, Michele Vazquez.
Set Design: Susan Zeeman Rogers
Costume Design: Devon Painter
Lighting Design: Stephen Petrilli
Sound Design & Original Music: Jane Shaw
Running time: .
Pearl Theatre, 80 St. Marks Place (212) 598-9802
From 11/10/05 to 12/18/05; opening 11/20/05.
Tue at 7pm; Thu - Sat at 8pm; Wed, Sat, Sun at 2pm.
Tickets: s $25 - $50, youth/senior rush tickets
Reviewed by Shirley Safran based on November 29th performance
Playbill Broadway Year Book
The new annual to dress up every Broadway lover's coffee table

broadway musicals: the 101 greatest shows of all time
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.

tales from shakespeare
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
Our Review

At This Theater Cover
At This Theater

Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide

Ridiculous! The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam

metaphors dictionary cover
>6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by our editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.

The Broadway Theatre Archive


©Copyright 2005, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from