Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

The Woman Hater
Mamaí Theatre Company
Review by Mark Horning

Also see Mark's review of Objectively/Reasonable: A Community Response to the Shooting of Tamir Rice, 11/22/14


Courtesy of Mamaí Theatre Company
Billed as "Jane Austen meets William Shakespeare" and "the missing link between Richard Sheridan and Oscar Wilde," Fanny Burney's The Woman Hater, now being staged by Mamaí Theatre Company, is a period sentimental comedy set in England in 1802. Due to pressure from Burney's family, the work was never performed in her lifetime and in fact did not make its way to the stage until 2003. This could in part be due to the tremendous demands that are put on the cast and audience. The show clocks in just past three hour plus a fifteen minute intermission. The five acts, seventeen scene changes, and an intricate plot make for a full evening of theater.

Sir Roderick has evolved into a frantic misogynist due to being jilted by his fiancée from seventeen years prior who married Lord Smatter because he wooed her with verse. So set in his misogynist ways, he has Old Waverly and his son Young Waverly living at the mansion with the threat of disinheritance if either seeks relations with any woman.

To add to his distress, Sir Roderick's own sister had the gall to marry his ex-fiancée's brother, Wilmot. In order to escape her brother's wrath, the couple flees to the West Indies but, upon arriving, Wilmot accuses Eleonora of having an affair with the ship's captain. Under great distress, Eleonora leaves her husband, taking their daughter with her. The family nurse, having had a child, Sophia, out of wedlock, sees an opportunity and substitutes her child for Eleonora's.

Seventeen years have passed. Lady Smatter has returned to the area seeking to rekindle the flame she once had with Sir Roderick. She sees herself as "a lady of great learning" who consistently misquotes all of the classic authors. A contrite Wilmot, realizing the error he made, returns in search of his wife, leaving his false daughter with Lady Smatter. Eleonora has set herself and her daughter up in a modest cottage in the area. Thus sets into motion the series of mistaken identities that emphasize the comic farce of this work. Add to this, Bob (an uneducated buffoon), who is the brother of the maid and nephew of the butler, as well as various servants with their own agendas.

While superbly acted, the production is hamstrung by a number of issues. First is the sound deadening factor in the cavernous DeMolay Room at the Cleveland Masonic Performing Arts Center. Certain members of the cast can barely be heard, much less understood, past the edge of the stage. Miking all the actors is strongly encouraged. Secondly, the length of the work makes for a long evening of sitting in one place—while an intriguing premise, it does not hold enough fascination to carry the work off. Some members of the audience opted to leave at intermission rather than endure the final two acts at the performance I attended. Lastly, there needs to be a law passed stating that no American actor should be allowed to fake a British accent. Along with making the dialog even harder to understand, it makes them look ridiculous.

Except for the shortcomings listed above, this is an expertly acted, lighted, and produced work. If your taste in theater leans toward more classical and traditional works, this is a play that will delight you to no end. Although long in execution, the quality of acting nevertheless helps carry it through, somewhat.

The performance venue at the Cleveland Masonic Performing Arts Center located at 3615 Euclid Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio features ample free parking, air conditioning, and is ADA compliant.

Mamaí Theatre Company's production of The Woman Hater will be on stage through September 4, 2016. Ticket prices are adults: $22, seniors (65 and older): $20, students (25 and under): $15 and may be purchased online at www.mamaitheatreco.org or by calling (440) 394-8353.


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