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Classic meets modern

By Kerianne Tupac

The University of Michigan Department of Theatre & Drama closes out the fall semester with “The Beaux’ Stratagem” by George Farquhar, adapted by Thornton Wilder and Ken Ludwig. Created by three theatrical voices centuries apart, “The Beaux’ Stratagem” melds classic and modern sensibilities in a seamless whole.

“The Beaux’ Stratagem” plays December 8 at 7:30pm, December 9 and 10 at 8pm, and December 11 at 2pm at the Power Center for the Performing Arts. UM Assistant Professor of Theatre and Chair of the Department Priscilla Lindsay, whose work was last seen in Tartuffe, directs.

Irish playwright George Farquhar (1677-1707) first gained success with his work “Love and the Bottle” (1698), closely followed by “The Constant Couple” (1700) and “The Recruiting Officer” (1706). Combining the verbal wit of Restoration Comedy with physical comedy, Farquhar’s works appealed to a broad audience. However due to adverse personal circumstances, consistent financial stability evaded him.

Finding his friend destitute and ill, actor Robert Wilkes commissioned the playwright to write another comedy, “The Beaux’ Stratagem.” Finished in March 1707, the play became an instant success. Unfortunately, Farquhar died less than two months after the opening at the age of 30. The Beaux’ has been performed frequently in Great Britain and Ireland, with constant revivals since its premiere, however the work has only been performed professionally only three times in the United States over the last three centuries.

In 1939, Thornton Wilder, fresh from his success with “Our Town,” received a request from famed producer Cheryl Crawford for a new look at Beaux’. Wilder worked on the adaptation for nine months before declaring himself “stuck” and abandoning the project. In 2004, Wilder’s nephew rediscovered the forgotten manuscript and asked playwright Ken Ludwig (Crazy for You, Lend Me a Tenor) to complete the project. The new Beaux’ debuted in 2006 at the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington D.C.

The Plot

The story follows two young minor aristocrats (the “Beaux”), Jack Archer & Tom Aimwell. Having blown their fortunes, they set off for the countryside in pursuit of marrying into wealth in order to continue their lives of pleasure. In the town of Lichfield they find their quarry – the daughter of a wealthy widow and her unhappily married sister-in-law. Posing as master and servant, their elaborate schemes soon begin to go awry when they encounter an unexpected twist — true love. When an innkeeper’s daughter takes a fancy to Archer and the local “parson” tries to recruit them into his neighborhood highwayman gang, their plans run completely off the rails. In the end, the unlikely heroes get exactly what they wanted, if not what they bargained for.

“This play has been called a delightful romp: sheer laugh-out-loud fun, with witty dialogue and characters that engage the audience’s sympathy while disarming them at the same time… in short – a perfect holiday offering for a cold winter’s night in Ann Arbor, in the Power Center,” said director Lindsay. “Feminine wiles vs male determination, and wacky memorable characters who will tickle your funny bone – that’s what we’re about!”

For the production, Colin Fulton, a senior InterArts student, has written original music for oboe, bassoon, and harpsichord. According to Lindsay, “The music, along with live sound effects, help set the stage, provide transitions from scene to scene, underscore our fights, and send us dancing off at the end of the evening.”

Joining Lindsay and Fulton on the creative team is scenic designer Vincent Mountain, whose work was last seen in Falstaff, with Jessica Hahn (The Full Monty) designing costumes. Both Mountain and Hahn are faculty members in the Department of Theatre & Drama. Department of Theatre & Drama senior Mary Clare Blake-Booth (Arms and the Man) designs lights. Sophomore Department of Musical Theatre student Michael Hartung serves as dance choreographer while Nate Mitchell, a guest faculty member in the Department of Theatre & Drama, choreographs the fights. The wig and makeup design is by Dawn Rivard.

Discussion & Ticket Info

Following the Friday performance on December 9, there will be a post-performance discussion moderated by Lindsay and featuring members of the cast. Curtain Call Fridays offer an opportunity for audience members to talk with artists about each production. Sponsored by the Friends of Theatre & Drama, the discussions are free and open to all.

Tickets for The Beaux’ Stratagem are $26 and $20 reserved seating with students only $10 with ID.

Tickets are available in person at the League Ticket Office, located within the Michigan League. The Ticket Office is open from 9am-5pm, Monday through Friday and 10am-1pm on Saturday. Order by phone at (734) 764-2538.

All major credit cards are accepted. Tickets may also be ordered online at

The Power Center, located at 121 N. Fletcher Street, is wheelchair accessible and equipped with an infrared listening system for hearing enhancement.

PHOTO: Left to right — Casey Hanley as Tom Aimwell, Nicole Gellman as Dorinda Bountiful, Philip Maxwell as Jack Archer, Emily Berman as Mrs. Kate Sullen and, Melissa Golliday (seated) as Lady Bountiful in the UM Department of Theatre & Drama’s production of “The Beaux’ Stratagem” by George Farquhar. (Photo by Peter Smith Photography)