Dublin-born playwright Dion Boucicault’s farce “London Assurance), set in 1841, has endured as a classic, and the Irish Repertory Theater has revived it for a contemporary look. This was one of the earliest plays of Boucicault (1822-1890), and it has had various incarnations. Director Charlotte Moore, with her customary expertise, has assembled a quality cast and scenic designer James Noone has provided appealing London and Gloucestershire home settings via a revolving stage.
Viewed today, the farce, with its convoluted plot and tangled relationships, unfortunately is only intermittently funny. The characters are colorful, and the cast members ham it up stylishly, but the result emanating from the writing is more busy than laugh-evoking.
For me the funniest line comes from Sir Harcourt Courtly, played by an over-the-top, preening and portly Colin McPhillamy, who reports that his wife ran off with his best friend. Pause, then, “I miss him.”
Boucicault, of course, is satirizing his characters, notions of love and the importance of money, as well as the extremes to which the characters will go in pursuit of their involvements, requiring intrigue and posturing.
Grace (pert Caroline Strang), the niece of Max Harkaway (Brian Keene), is set to marry the much older Sir Harcourt for financial reasons. However, Sir Harcourt’s son Charles (Ian Holcomb) falls for Grace, who is about to become his stepmother, and she secretly falls for him too.
The flamboyant and married Lady Gay Spanker (Rachel Pickup), plots to get Sir Harcourt to fall for her, thus tearing him away from Grace, and leaving the path open for Charles. (There’s some fake identity switching on the part of Charles along the way.)
Naturally, all turns out happily in the end as the farcical elements run their course. Others in the cast include Elliot Joseph, Craig Wesley Divino, Meg Hennessy, Evan Zes and Robert Zuckerman. While watching the assorted portrayals by the cast members is enjoyable, the plot can grow tiresome during the two hours-twenty minutes production including an intermission. I longed for the play to become much funnier. At the Irish Repertory Theatre, 132 West 22nd Street. Phone: 212-727-2737. Reviewed December 20, 2019.