“Marriage is a very risky thing; it’s like Chancery, once in it, you can’t get out of it, and the costs are enormous,” bemoans Cheviot Hill at the thought of his potential engagement to three different women at the same time in W.S. Gilbert’s three-act farcical comic play, Engaged. This witty play, presented by the Victorian Lyric Opera Company at the Mountain at Mt. Vernon Place United Methodist Church, is engaging and highly enjoyable.
Set in England and Scotland in the 1870s, rich, attractive Cheviot, humorously played by the fabulous David Dubov, initially agrees to marry Minnie Symperson (Tara Hockensmith), his pretty but snobbish cousin. But after a freak train accident in the Scottish Lowlands, Cheviot finds himself quickly falling in love with a simple Scottish lassie named Maggie MacFarlane (Guenevere Spilsbury), who is already promised to Angus MacAlister (James Douglass), a simple Scottish lad. But just as quickly, Cheviot turns his amorous attentions on a fellow train passenger, the beautiful Belinda Treherne (Erika White Abrams), who is engaged to Major McGillicuddy (Ed Vilade), but who would rather marry Cheviot’s odd friend, Belvawney, enjoyably played by Gary Sullivan.
Meanwhile, Maggie’s elderly mom, Mrs. MacFarlane (Jane Maryott), wants Maggie to marry the sweet, but overly-emotional Angus and offers to marry Cheviot in her place (which he quickly and humorously rejects). At the same time, Mr. Symperson, dully played by Tom Goode, encourages Cheviot to marry his daughter, Minnie, or at least to kill himself because either way Symperson stands to inherit the huge sum of $1,000 pounds per year. Finding himself in the awkward position of being engaged to multiple women and possibly even being married to one of the women, Cheviot stumbles through various twists and turns in this hilarious plot. The ending is particularly unexpected but will make you laugh out loud.
According to the program notes, director, Felicity Ann Brown, and the cast edited Gilbert’s original 1877 show from a 2 hour and 15 minute running length to a more compact but no less enjoyable 90 minutes for the Capitol Fringe Festival by eliminating redundancies and even an entire character, Minnie’s maid Parker. Although I have never seen the full-length production of Engaged, I found myself fully engrossed in this funny and memorable production.
The ensemble cast does a nice job of mastering the tricky Scottish and British accents, though in the beginning of the show I had significant difficulty understanding the dialogue between Angus and Maggie. Spilsbury does a good job of enunciating her words throughout her comical and fresh-faced portrayal of Maggie but Douglass, unfortunately, frequently mumbles his lines throughout the show and also seemed to have some memory problems. Sullivan’s portrayal of the strange Belvawney was especially engaging as was Abrams’ high-spirited portrayal of Belinda. Both actors were very well cast for these respective roles. I must give special recognition to David Dubov’s witty and spot-on portrayal of the bumbling, love-sick Cheviot. Dubnov carries the show with his hilarious facial expressions and remarkable comedic timing. He was a true pleasure to watch.
Despite the occasional line flubs and difficult accents, Engaged was an enjoyable evening of comedic fun.
Written by W.S. Gilbert
Directed by Felicity Ann Brown
Presented by the Victorian Lyric Opera Company
Reviewed by Sabrina C. Daly
Running time: 90 minutes
Read all the reviews and check out the full Capital Fringe schedule here.
Did you see the show? What did you think?