American Players Theatre
5950 Golf Course Road
P.O. Box 819
Spring Green, WI 53588
Box Office: 608-588-2361
You’re not going to want to let this one sail by – a hearty comedy with a wicked streak, crewed by the kind of impish characters our players can melt right into. Whether they’re attempting to fill their boats or their beds, these recruiters will need to apply some hefty truth-stretching to their deal-closing. If you were to think it’s all a little shady, you’d be absolutely right. But it’s also sexy and hilarious, with a surprising thoughtful side. There are real people to be found hiding behind all that ridiculous ego. It’s only in disguise that their shields begin to slip. It may just inspire us to drop our own.
Closes September 29
Featuring: Kelsey Brennan, Nate Burger, Tim Gittings, Juan Rivera Lebron, Brian Mani, Cristina Panfilio, Jefferson A. Russsell, Andrea San Miguel, Marcus Truschinski
Scoundrels are put on notice and women (literally) wear the pants in this uproarious comedy. Recruiting officers travel from port to port wooing men into service at sea, and women into their beds. Two such men, Worthy and Plume, land in Shrewsbury each in love with a woman who lives there. Worthy has asked Melinda to be his mistress – an offer that she declined. Meanwhile, Plume is in love with Melinda’s cousin Sylvia. But Sylvia, grieving her brother’s recent death, disguises herself as a man to get away for a while, throwing everyone’s plans into comedic chaos.
George Farquhar’s The Recruiting Officer was the most popular play of the 18th century. It got more performances than Hamlet, the second most popular. Think of that. I bet you’ve never heard of The Recruiting Officer. There have been only a handful of productions of it in this country. Of course you could argue that “popular” is not the same as good. That’s a fact. But not in this case.
The Recruiting Officer is a magnificent play. It’s smart, sexy and very funny. And surprisingly moving. Farquhar was a recruiting officer himself, trying to enlist men for the army in the same small town that the play is set. But recruitment is not just a military word. Here in Shrewsbury (and the world over) recruitment becomes a metaphor for the strategies of romantic love. Ambush, parley, retreat, siege, blockade, defense, surrender. I’m talking love here.
This is a very modern play. It is almost autobiographical in a local, real-time way that playwrights hadn’t done before. And it is as much about identity as it is about love. What is it to be a man? What is it to be a woman? The astutely written characters in this play are paired up and crazy in love. And they are scared to death to admit it. That’s probably the basis for most modern comedy.
To get back to why this play is never done. The Recruiting Officer is one of many brilliant English comedies written in the 17th and 18th centuries that are rarely seen outside of universities. It requires astonishing actors with fierce language skills. That is an APT specialty. But I also think these plays have been dismissed as being phony or trite. Waving fans and lots of bowing. All style and no substance. But “style” is merely what somebody else did in another production. I think these plays are really about paring away our delusions to find the truth. The crazy, wacky truth of our lives. What could be funnier?
Please enjoy this rare opportunity to enjoy George Farquhar’s The Recruiting Officer.
- William Brown