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Revealing 'The Rivals'

KEVIN KLAUS/Arizona daily wildcat
By Nathan Tafoya
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, October 14, 2004
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ART play matches wits with Wilde

More than 100 years before Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest," Richard Brinsley Sheridan set a precedent for witty plays about mistaken identities, meddling in idealized love and competing for amorous attentions.

"The Rivals," first produced in 1775 and considered one of the great English comedies of manners, will vie for your affection this month in the UA's Laboratory Theatre.

"It's all built on misunderstanding, like 'Three's Company,'" said acting junior Dane Corrigan about the comedy. Corrigan plays Captain Jack Absolute and his mistaken identity, Ensign Beverley.

If you go...

The Rivals
Laboratory Theatre
Oct. 13-16, 21-23, 28-30 7:30 p.m. $25 general
$18 student
$23 senior/employee

The plot entails suitors employing their wit and brandishing their pistols in order to win the affection of heiress Lydia Languish. Subplots and sub-love stories ensue.

"It's very fun manipulating people, like playing on the tightrope's edge," said Corrigan about his roles.

The show's first preview last Sunday went well, according to Corrigan and fellow cast member Andrew Goldwasser, who is also an acting junior.

"We were surprised," said Goldwasser, who plays a female, Mrs. Malaprop, in the play. "For a preview, we got a pretty performance-ready audience (Sunday)."

Goldwasser said it wasn't too hard to get in touch with his feminine side for Mrs. Malaprop's role.

"It's a very difficult role, but I think playing a woman is honestly no different than playing a man," said Goldwasser. "I think in any case, you're just trying to see what makes that person tick . ... Now, moving and wearing the costume and whatnot is a different story. That's hard - wearing a corset and heels - that's tough."

Goldwasser plucked his eyebrows and shaved his chest for the role. He doesn't have to worry about his legs though because his dress reaches the floor.

"Andrew here is very committed to his craft," said Corrigan.

And with the flamboyant costumes come minor hazards for the fluidity of the play.

"I'm about five feet wide," Goldwasser said, explaining his upper-class, 18th-century dress.

"Every once in a while something gets knocked down or trapped in a door - the wig falls off," offered Corrigan.

The actors have learned that rehearsals are similar to actual performances, except for pausing until the laughter subsides.

"Never anticipate a laugh," said Goldwasser about audience response to comedic efforts in the play. "You'll get laughs at moments you didn't think were going to happen like that. I mean, you don't expect your wig to fall off."

The Mrs. Malaprop wig has only fallen off during rehearsal and attendees shouldn't expect to see her head fur drop like a rat on the floor during a performance. Goldwasser said they've fixed the problem and that it's better attached now.

The two actors said there haven't been any big mishaps during a performance yet.

"Knock on wood," said Corrigan, rapping his knuckles on a fake tree in the Theatre Arts building.

With the coming of director Brent Gibbs' newborn last month, the cast of "The Rivals" learned to listen for Gibbs' tension-building cellular ringtone.

"We would always wait for 'Hava Nagila' - there would very often be false alarms," said Corrigan.

The cast went through some rehearsals with proxy directors when director Brent Gibbs finally did have a son, Harper Gibbs, a few days after the predicted due date.

And the show has gone on.

The UA Fine Arts Box Office said shows for this week are booking quickly but that there are lots of seats available for the following two weeks.

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