The Rivals by Richard Brinsley Sheridan

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Download The Rivals from the Colonial Radio Theatre on the Air

Colonial Radio Theatre on the Air, 2005
Originally released on the Spoken Network, and now available for download on ITunes as well as Amazon and Audible, Nancy Curran Willis' production comes across as a good-hearted romp, allowing plenty of opportunity for memorable performances such as Diane Lind's Mrs. Malaprop and Joseph Zamparelli's Sir Lucius O'Trigger.  Sheridan's play takes familiar comic conventions - such as the disguise plot, or the unlikely coincidence - and makes fun of them.  In Willis' production, even the characters were aware of this: Jack Absolute (Dan Gelinas) took full advantage of Mrs. Malaprop's gullibility, as he convinced her that he was acting in the older woman's best interests by making sure that Beverley was kept away from Malaprop's house.  The fact that Absolute and Beverley were one and the same person was conveniently overlooked.
Nonetheless Willis' production did have a serious side to it, as it showed how language in Sheridan's world no longer communicated meaning, but was simply a means for the characters to show off.  Mrs. Malaprop is the best example of this; but Sir Anthony Absolute (J. T. Turner) did much the same thing, as he cast curse upon curse on his unfortunate son Jack, in the belief that Jack was defying him.  Very few of the phrases actually meant anything: Sir Anthony was merely trying to show off.  When Jack appeared to obey him, Sir Anthony's tone changed, as he praised his son to the heavens.
The production had its violent moments: the servant Fag (Jeremy Benson) received abuse from his masters, and promptly meted it out to the serving-wench Lucy (Leigh Berry).  Lucy in turn vented her frustration by kicking the cat. 
The action drew to the expected happy ending, but only for the younger characters.  Mrs. Malaprop and Sir Anthony had to accept that they had been deluded; while it appeared that they were quite willing to do so, we knew that they had not reformed in any way.  They reminded us of the Jonsonian elements in Sheridan's text, in the sense that they were imprisoned by their "humours" - in other words, their obsessions.