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U.Va Drama Department Playfully Ponders “The Way of the World”

November 5, 2003 -- In its second production of the 2003-2004 season, the U.Va Drama Department delights audiences with William Congreve’s Restoration classic The Way of the World. This comedic masterpiece brings back guest director Sabin Epstein, (The Miser), for a hilarious examination of love, marriage, and betrayal. Audiences are invited to enjoy the show’s battling of wits November 13-15 and 19-22 at 8 p.m. in the Culbreth Theatre.

Written in 1700, The Way of the World concluded Congreve’s renowned career as a playwright. Although it is remembered as his most intellectually sophisticated comedy, the play originally sparked controversy for violating sexual taboos. The story centers on two lovers—Mirabell (Chris Cannon) and Millamant (Molly Beilhart)—whose attitudes directly counter traditional views of marriage. Although they espouse one another’s equality, the pair must contend with hierarchal social practices. When their romance threatens Millamant’s inheritance rights, the lovers hatch a clever plot to disguise characters’ long-established, public masks… and, consequently, throw their rigid social order into chaos. A talented cast of actors—including Heather Mayes, Ebenezer Quaye, Katie Liddicoat, and Beth Gervain— will portray this comedy of intricate language and social commentary.

When The Way of the World first arrived on the London stage, many middle and upper-class patrons scorned its presentation of aristocratic marriage. Although Congreve was only thirty at the time, the response helped dissuade him from composing other theatrical works. Until this experience, Congreve produced a steady succession of plays within a brief time frame. He experienced tremendous success with his popular, first play, The Old Bachelor, (1693), which was followed that same year by The Double-Dealer. Additionally, Congreve wrote Love for Love (1697), and his only tragedy, The Mourning Bride (1697). However, it is The Way of the World for which he is most venerated today.

Sabin Epstein, a guest artist currently serving on the acting faculty for the University of Southern California, directs this challenging play. Specializing in period styles, Epstein’s credits include the U.Va Drama Department’s 2001 production of The Miser, and A Noise Within at California’s Classical Theatre. He previously headed the conservatory training program at the American Conservatory Theatre, is an associate artist at the Georgia Shakespeare Festival, and has served as a guest director for numerous theatre companies, such as the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Shakespeare in Santa Fe, the Utah and Oregon Shakespeare Festivals, San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre, and the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Syndey, Australia.
Unlike other Restoration comedies, which tend to be broader and of a lighter spirit, Epstein described The Way of the World as being multi-layered. Although this makes the play more challenging, Epstein explained that its complexity helped attract him to the production in the first place. “We all like to be dared,” Epstein said. “Doing this play is like climbing Mount Everest: if we’re going to do it, let’s go all the way. Let’s not be safe, and see what happens.”

Tickets for The Way of the World are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $7 for students; full-time U.Va students can use their ART$ Dollars to purchase tickets. Season tickets are also available. For more information, call the Drama Department Box Office at 434-924-3376. The box office is open from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Contact: James Scales, (434) 982-5279

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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Last Modified: Wednesday, 05-Nov-2003 15:25:42 EST
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