Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Coward ***

The Coward, Nick Jones' new comedy now in an LCT3 production at the Duke, is a mess, albeit an intermittently hilarious one. All about honor and duelling in late 18th century England, it revolves around Lucidus Culling (Jeremy Strong), an effete young gentleman whose placid behavior does not meet with his father's (Richard Poe's) approval. His two brothers have died in duels and his father expects no less from him. He challenges an old man to a duel, but when he learns that the man's son, a great shot, will stand in for the father, he hires a commoner (the always enjoyable Christopher Evan Welch) to represent him. The duel spins wildly out of control, but the result is to gain admiration and celebrity for Lucidus. Further complications ensue, to put it mildly. It's a wild blend of period comedy, black humor and the absurd, with some very funny one-liners and anachronisms. David Zinn's lovely set and Gabriel Berry's lavish costumes are a pleasure to behold. Director Sam Gold keeps things moving briskly. The fun is slow to build in Act One and runs down too soon in Act Two, but during its best moments, the play is very funny... and it's only $20.

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