‘Rough Crossing’ Review: Riding the Waves of Wit

Posted July 30, 2021

Rough Crossing Web 6

Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal

American Players Theater, the finest classical theater festival in the U.S., has resumed outdoor public performances in its 1,089-seat hilltop amphitheater, but it is simultaneously webcasting them, a satisfying alternative for those, like me, as yet unable to make the trip to rural Wisconsin to view them in person. “Rough Crossing,” Tom Stoppard’s elaborately twisty 1984 backstage farce, is APT’s latest offering, and while I’ve seen revivals as good as this one, I don’t expect to see it done better.

“Rough Crossing” is the second of two English-language adaptations of “Play at the Castle,” a 1924 comedy by the Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnár that is best known in this country in P.G. Wodehouse’s 1926 version, “The Play’s the Thing.” I saw Wodehouse’s adaptation done perfectly on my first visit to APT in 2005. It’s a superb comedy, but “Rough Crossing,” in which Mr. Stoppard transplants the action of the six-character play to an ocean liner cruising through choppy seas, is even funnier. Instead of the Woostershire sauce with which the creator of Jeeves slathered his version, Mr. Stoppard gives us his own distinctive brand of wordplay (“How ironical that tongue-trippery should come in my shape and tripped-uppery in yours”). In lieu of moving the set pieces, he also requires the actors to simulate the disorienting effects of ocean waves, an effect that ups the comic ante still further and which William Brown, one of Chicago’s leading stage directors and a regular at APT, brings off with whizzing éclat.

Read the rest of the review here!