Oranges Are Just About the Only Fruit

Well, apart from grapes, perhaps. Having left the Big Apple behind us, we started off our trip to London with a roll in the Haymarket. We were not offered any oranges, the vending of which, traditionally, is associated with prostitution; but despite the absence of Cyprians (or Orange-wenches” as referred to in the play), the scene we came upon at the Haymarket was salacious nonetheless. In said 287-year-old Theatre Royal (whose rebuilt venue I captured here in its present condition), The Country Wife was first performed back in 1675. This season, William Wycherley’s bawdy comedy is back, if somewhat condensed (its prologue cropped) and refurbished, with a few visual puns and stagecrafted metaphors added (such as a rendering of the expression “when pigs fly”). The dialogue should best be left unchanged, at least if the revision is as lame as that overheard at the Haymarket that night (something about a doctor being nothing without patience, a pantomime-worthy piece of paronomasia rather more subtle in the original).

Wycherley’s comedy has attracted some of the great actresses of the British theater, including Judy Dench, Helen Mirren, and Maggie Smith. Cast in the role of Lady Fidget (as Edith Evans before her), Patricia Hodge did not quite manage to make the character memorable; but as an ensemble piece, this production succeeded nonetheless as a naughty diversion nowadays referred to as a guilty pleasure.

Mind you, we had consumed a few stomped grapes too many and struggled at first to keep our eyes firmly on the action. Luckily, though, keeping up with this clever Wife is bound to keep anyone up. Take it from an old fruit.

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