What do you get with a play that infuses all the elements of a classic farce with a modern soundtrack and an all-female cast? You get complete and utter hilarity. Much of this hilarity is owed to the wit of English playwright Aphra Behn, known to many as one of the first female dramatists and therefore a key figure of Restoration-era theater. Who better to mount a modern production of one of Behn's most ridiculously raunchy plays, Sir Patient Fancy, than all-female troupe The Queen's Company? Founded in 2000 by director Rebecca Patterson, the company is dedicated to introducing classic works to a contemporary audience through the use of gender-blind casting.
It is the late 1600s in England, a time when fiscal inequity meant marrying for money, and not for love. As a result, in the director's words, "all hell breaks loose and hearts get broken." Sir Patient Fancy, though written in the 17th century, feels a lot like something one would read in today's gossip rags: Lady Fancy is married to the titular Sir Patient Fancy, but really fancies Charles Wittmore, who is friends with Lodwick Knowell, who is in love with Isabella Fancy, who is betrothed to Sir Fainlove who actually is Charles Wittmore. Needless to say: the plot thickens and madness ensues, with a lot of laughs along the way. In a modern-day context, Behn's female characters here are not passive pretty little things, but rather active, doing most of the scheming. This is made even more interesting with an all-female cast, where the men answer to the women.
As for the actors themselves, their onstage antics are well-timed, comedic perfection. The distinct personalities of Behn's characters combined with the irreverent kookiness of each cast member creates a bubbly atmosphere not unlike the fizzy champagne one would have in Sir Patient Fancy's court (if one had time to drink in the midst of all that scheming and meddling). The pacing and delivery of lines is never tired, maintaining a consistent rhythm, much of which is due to the company's evident chemistry with one another. One pairing with such notable chemistry is that of Tiffany Abercrombie and Elisabeth Preston, who play Lady Fancy and Wittmore, respectively. Each complemented the other with quick and natural ease; their expressions and mannerisms only helped to heighten the comedy in which they were immersed. Other standouts include Virginia Baeta as the bumbling but eager Sir Credulous Easy and Natalie Lebert as the clueless Sir Patient Fancy himself. While Matthew J. Fick's set design maintains the play's classic roots, Kristina Makowski's costumes are a fusion of both modern and period elements, providing the perfect visual representation of the company's performative style.
Boasting a chuckle-enducing, genre-bending soundtrack and a plot with more twists than a daytime soap opera, it is clear that The Queen's Company has put their own unique stamp on classic Restoration comedy with Sir Patient Fancy.
Sir Patient Fancy runs from March 15 – April 5 in a limited engagement at the Wild Project (located at 195 East 3rd Street between Avenue A and Avenue B). Performances are Wednesdays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets are $18 and can be purchased online at www.queenscompany.org or by calling 1-866-811-4111. Tickets are 2-for-1 on Wednesday nights.