Academic journal article Restoration and 18th Century Theatre Research

The Busy Body: A Comedy

Academic journal article Restoration and 18th Century Theatre Research

The Busy Body: A Comedy

Article excerpt

Review of Susanna Centlivres The Busy Body: A Comedy, directed by John Sipes, adapted by Misty Anderson and John Sipes, Clarence Brown Theatre at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, February 22-March 12, 2017.

Susanna Centlivres 1709 comedy The Busy Body, adapted by Misty Anderson and John Sipes and directed by John Sipes, was recently performed at the modified theatre-in-the-round just outside the Clarence Brown Theatre on the campus of The University of Tennessee. This winter delight played to a packed house for sixteen performances and featured period music, elaborate costumes, and stunning sets.

Centlivres farce introduces two young women, Miranda and Isabinda, who simply want to marry the men they love, not the ones chosen for them by their older guardians. If they must employ trickery in the fastmoving plot to do so, then they are certainly game. But Centlivres female characters are never so foolish as to forego their inheritance for love-they want both. In Centlivre's later comedy A Bold Stroke for a Wife, character Anne Lovely finds herself in a similar situation, pleasing her guardians and keeping her £30,000 or marrying her lover and losing it. Anne's analysis is that "Love makes but a slovenly figure in that house where poverty keeps the door." The Busy Body's Miranda is aware of this as well, as she also is worth £30,000, over £3,000,000 in todays market; so, she conspires to trick her guardian, Sir Francis Gripe, into believing she will marry him instead of her younger beau. Meanwhile, Isabindas father has promised her to a wealthy Spanish merchant; and in one of Centlivres nationalistic moments, Isabinda admits to "loving my own country best"-allusions to Spains Catholicism in the text and in the performance would have made an English audience agree. Through various plot devices, the two women do get their men in the end; but, in reality, marriage only offers an escape from the tyranny of a guardian or father. In short, this is a play about female liberty, love, money, and nationalism.

While all of the roles in this performance were admirably acted, it was busybody Marplot and servant Patch who often drove the action and sometimes stole the show. Marplots over-the-top snooping and Patch's droll assistance to her lady contributed to the slap-stick quality of the play, often diverting the audience from some of its more serious implications. …

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