Facebook Twitter

‘The Busybody’ is a romp

Play written in the 1700s is suprisingly relevant today

SHARE ‘The Busybody’ is a romp

THE BUSYBODY, Babcock Theatre, University of Utah, through April 15 (581-7100 or www.kingtix.com), running time: 135 minutes (one intermission)

In the director's notes, Sarah Shippobotham says "The Busybody" is hard to stage. It was written in the 1700s and has all the verbal complexity of Shakespeare but "without his visceral imagery," she says.

As it turns out, under her direction, the Babcock production is a romp. It's fun in the same way a Shakespeare comedy is fun, full of funny lines and mistaken identities.

Interesting for modern audiences is that this play, wildly popular in its own time, was written by a woman, written at a time when women were just beginning to write plays and act. No longer did men play all the women's roles.

So Shippobotham frosts that cake by putting a woman in one of the men's roles in her production. Melissa Burns is delightful as Sir Jealous Traffick.

As the play begins we see young Sir George Airy (Patrick Harris) talking to his friend Charles (David Bohnet). Airy is in love with two women, one who is witty — but who wears a mask so he can't see her face — and the other who is pretty but doesn't talk. Being an airhead, he is naturally going to try to marry the pretty one.

Bryan Kido plays their friend, Marplot. It takes some time to understand the old-fashioned dialogue, so you won't soon realize that Marplot is the busybody. But think about his name. As the two young men woo their young women (charmingly played by Jamie Greenland and Starley Flynn) Kido "mars their plots."

Julia Alexander is perky in the role of the servant, Patch, and Jesse Dornan makes us laugh as the elderly Sir Francis Gripe. Gripe is so deluded that he thinks his pretty ward prefers older men to those her own age.

The moral of "The Busybody" is: When the world is controlled by the old men, the young folks have to lie to get their hands on the money and on each other. But the second part of the moral is this: No one gets away with much when there's a busybody in town.

The production is eye-intriguing, too. The costumes are designed by the Univesity of Utah's costume class. Each student outfitted one character, working together to ensure cohesiveness. Also the audience sits in a semi-circle and we watch as stage hands spin the set.

Sensitivity: Mild sexual innuendo. Women's cleavages are enhanced with makeup and fake moles.

E-mail: susan@desnews.com