The lilac-purple and daffodil-yellow hues spied on campus this weekend aren’t necessarily spring flowers. They also could be spectacular pastel wigs donned by talented students in University of Mary Washington Theatre’s production of the saucy 1675 satire The Country Wife.
“The costumes are, indeed, stunning – brightly colored and 17th century in design,” said Professor of Theatre Helen Housley, who directs the show.
Students spent a semester weaving resplendent fabrics in jeweled tones into costumes designed by Associate Professor Kevin McCluskey. The Country Wife also features period-appropriate theatrical methods and lush scenery – all created in-house. With a cast of nearly 20, Housley said, it’s “an ambitious undertaking” for the department.
The show, which concludes UMW Theatre’s 2018-19 season, kicks off tonight with a Pay-What-You-Can Preview Performance in duPont Hall’s Klein Theatre at 7:30. The box office opens at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
William Wycherley’s witty and ribald tale has lascivious rake Harry Horner claiming to be impotent as a scheme to bed the virtuous ladies of London society, right under the noses of their unsuspecting spouses. The seduction plot is successful at first, but the philandering playboy’s cover is almost blown when the beautiful and naïve Margery Pinchwife becomes smitten with him. Considered inappropriate for 18th- and 19th-century audiences, The Country Wife was banned for nearly two centuries due to its coarse language and sexual innuendos.
The production examines the hypocrisies of marriage and relationships in Restoration Era England, where there was an abandonment of moral behavior and a backlash against Puritanism after King Charles II assumed the throne in 1660. Returning from his exile in France, the king also brought to England a fondness for traditional French couture.
“It was a highly elaborate period for men’s and women’s fashions,” Housley said. “The costumes reflect the period well.”
Assistant Professor Michael Benson created the scenery, employing a pulley method similar to what would have been used in Restoration Era theatre productions. Sound design was done by Associate Professor Julie Hodge, lighting design by Melanie Wisner ’19 and choreography by Michayla Rice ’19.
After tonight’s Pay-What-You-Can Preview show, performances of The Country Wife take place April 11-13 and April 17-20 at 7:30 p.m., and April 14 and 20 at 2 p.m. in duPont Hall’s Klein Theatre. Tickets cost $20 for general admission, $16 for non-UMW students, senior citizens, alumni and military, and $8 for students with a UMW ID. AfterWords, a post-show talkback with the cast, will take place following the matinee performance on April 14. For more information or to purchase tickets, call the Klein Theatre Box Office at 540-654-1111 or visit fredtix.com.