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In the immediate aftermath of the Revolution, The Contrast is a comic staging of the moral and social distinction between the new American and the corrupt European. Part call to virtue, part cautionary tale, the play is all comic satire: sentimental Maria Van Rough is betrothed from her childhood to Billy Dimple, who has returned from Europe a foppish lothario. Loathing Billy's affectations, but bound by her duty, Maria's quandary is complicated when she falls in love with the earnest soldier: Henry Manly. Tangling and untangling the dilemma on the way to a (mostly) happy resolution are calculating belles Charlotte and Letitia, scheming servant Jessamy, naïve rube Jonathan, and the boorish old Van Rough himself.

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