“Hilberry Theatre takes up restoration project”

Review by John Quinn for Encore Michigan

Hold on. This really is a review, not an article in “News and Previews.” The above headline is a deception. Given the shabby state of journalism it’s not the first, nor the last you’ll encounter. The Hilberry isn’t renovating; it is, in fact, preparing to build a whole new theater. The project they’ve undertaken is a play driven by deception; full of characters who revel so joyously in self-serving manipulation and callous disregard for the holy state of Matrimony that they seem positively 21st Century. The Restoration project is, in fact, William Congreve’s 1700 classic, “The Way of the World.”

Charles I allowed his royal prerogatives go to his head, and he lost it – his head, that is. Convicted of treason, Charles was executed by Parliament 1649. The Interregnum was dominated by puritanical morals; the theaters, in fact, had been closed as early as 1642.

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Annie Keris as Millamant and Kyle Mitchell Johnson as Mirabell in The Way of the World.

One can only imagine a rousing chorus of “Happy Days Are Here Again” resounding through the streets when the monarchy was restored in the person of Charles II in 1660. A “Good Time” Charlie indeed, his reign permitted everybody let his hair down, figuratively and literally, and playwrights were still writing naughty bits four decades later. “The Way of the World” remains a witty, sassy, thoroughly cynical comedy even after three hundred years.

The plot is convoluted, the more so since many of the characters’ names are similar. Mirabell (Kyle Mitchell Johnson) loves Millament (Annie Keris), who comes with a big dowry attached. But in order to get both the girl and the cash, he must win the approval of Millament’s aunt, Lady Wishfort (Bevin Bell-Hall), who despises him. Milady would rather have Millament marry an oafish nephew, Sir Wilfull Witwoud (Santino Craven), and keep the money all in the family, as it were. Worse for Mirabell, if Lady Wishfort should marry before her niece, a big chunk of the money goes with her.

Read the full review here.

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