Review: ‘The Rivals’ kicks off the 2022 season at APT in fine form

Posted June 23, 2022

The Rivals Isthmus

By Gwendolyn Rice, Isthmus

Aaron Posner wants to make you laugh. Directing American Players Theatre’s first play of the season — the 18th century comedy of manners The Rivals — Posner does not want staid, overeducated audiences to smirk with self-satisfaction because they recognize the humor of an arcane play on words. He wants everyone in the packed house up the hill to giggle, to belly laugh, and to lap up the funny in this centuries-old play by presenting it with the unbridled silliness of a pie in the face. Of course the jokes that are baked into the script are still there, but Posner and his extraordinary cast — full of APT core company members and exciting, less familiar faces — pull out all the stops to make a good play into a great time. With whimsical sound effects, plenty of sight gags and physical humor, and vaudevillian choral interludes, The Rivals’ cast is winking at the audience and urging us to laugh along from the start.

Once the character introductions are out of the way, the play sets up a variety of rivalries to fulfill the promise of the title, while it poses the question, “Do we do crazy things in order to find love, or does being in love make us do crazy things?” By showing us the antics of scheming lovers, matchmakers, go-betweens, misled suitors, and the consternation of both the upper class and the help, the play’s answer is probably both.

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