It?s been 48 hours since I saw The Coward, by Nick Jones and directed by Sam Gold ?00 and I am still giggling. This Lincoln Center Theater premiere is set in 18th century England and stars Jeremy Strong A Man For All Seasons, Conversations in Tusculum, etc. with a supporting cast of seasoned actors. The premise is that a young gentleman, Lucidus Strong has been branded and is a coward by his father played by Richard Poe; M. Butterfly, The Pajama Game, etc. Lucidus initiates a pistol duel to appease his father but finds it would be best to use a surrogate to complete the task. Many shots later, his reputation fully secured as a brave and somewhat dangerous man, Lucidus comes to terms with who he really is. On paper this play could be a Bloody Bloody mess, but alas it is anything but. Gold?s direction, which borders on wizardry, culls the finest moments of humanity, bypasses all easy options, and brings forth the most delicious results. I have seen Mr. Strong in several performances and could not recognize him at all in this character is there finer praise? His characterization of Lucidus, with a nod to Martin Short and David Walliams no doubt, never waivers. What could easily be cartoonish or simply flat out annoying, is simply quite touching. No detail of realism surrounding this farce is left unplumbed. Even the stagehands are dressed in period costume, leading the audience to believe them as household servants. The curtain speech is delivered in character by the butler picture Jeeves admonishing you to turn off your cell phone. The set is decorated to perfection by David Zinn In the Next Room. The Duke Theatre is a relatively small 200 seat and exposed theatre. It is no easy feat to stage utterly convincing fight scenes, gun battles, and set changes in such an unforgiving arena. Gold?s accomplishment is additionally mystifying for this viewer as with The Coward he has ventured into an entirely new genre. The play opens November 22nd and is a definite must see.
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