In a veddy, veddy proper tale about class differences, gender roles, secret lovers and the pitfalls of an arranged marriage, playwright Melynda Kiring is quite right that “the fun in this play is the journey.” Directed by Stephen Foreman in its East Coast premiere at Greenbelt Arts Center, Quadrille is a light romantic comedy and fairy-tale journey of coming to terms with what really matters when it comes to true love.
The St. Galen manor is a rich but lonely abode in the English countryside in 1835. Sir Joshua (Jim Adams), the Viscount of the manor and town, a kindly but blind aristocrat, seeks out the attention of Myrna Fielding (Pamela Northrup), a town baker, by engaging her in a lucrative deal to become his personal chef. A business-minded woman who scoffs at the notion of love, Myrna agrees to move into the manor in a friendly business deal to cook for the Viscount of St. Galen.
Unexpectedly, Myrna and Sir Joshua fall in love, although neither acknowledges it. However, Sir Joshua, initially unbeknownst to Myrna, is already engaged to marry a woman half his age, the sweet but equally aristocratic Lilianne Valiere (Michaela Haber).
Little does Sir Joshua know that Lilianne is in love with the handsome and heroically dashing Nicholas Rondeau (Justin Diaz), who, alas, is merely the son of a lowly knight who fails to reach the upper crust to make him an acceptable spouse.
It’s easy to see that being equally yoked does not mean being rightly matched in love and here is where the fun of the journey begins. Will everybody just ‘fess up and acknowledge their beloved? Of course, love could not be that simple or the story would be over!
Will Sir Joshua and Myrna let love prevail despite their class differences and Myrna’s desire to remain an independent woman? Will Lilianne and Nicholas defy social convention by ignoring Lilianne’s patriarchal orders to pursue an “advantageous match” with a wealthy man she does not love?
And here is where the plot thickens in a romantic ruse that remains delightfully thin. But no spoiler alerts!
Quadrille is full of yummy visual treats with mouthwatering munchable goodies of muffins and teacakes that line Myrna’s bakery shelves created by scenic designer Stephen Foreman’s enticing but somewhat noisy movable set.
Splendidly fussy costumes beautifully designed by Megan Scott create a wardrobe of ribboned hats, puffy sleeves, bejeweled bodices and satiny bustles, ruffled collars and gowned skirts of the female aristocracy with fitted jodhpurs, morning coats, brocade vests and top hats for the men.
Even the serf-like costumes worn by the baker, Marie the maid (Jeanette Connors) and the footman/butler (Tyler Dos Santos) as well as the tech scene movers, who were also in costume, add a lovely touch in appealing taupe pastels, coarse muslin aprons, and attractive yeoman-like skirts and shirts.
In a carefully crafted duel that ensues between the blind nobleman and Nicholas, an expert swordsman, Matty Montes’s fight choreography is a hysterically funny sight for sore eyes.
Lots of props designed by Sally Dodson, for example, a little wooden music box emitting magical strains, add a touch of realism to the furnishing and fixings staging the mid-19th century manor and town. Sound designer Jim Adams’ crowd sounds outside Myrna’s bakery shop add another layer of making the times come alive in fairy tale fashion.
And enlivening the entire show before every scene with easel board and elegantly calligraphied placards, Mr. Henderson (Michael Iacone), Sir Joshua’s fuddy-duddy butler, is a hoot as the play’s blow-by-blow announcer.
The entire ensemble is another treat with their fine acting chops. The standout, however, is the unflappable Jim Adams as Sir Joshua. With that golden voice and the daring to play a blind man who swordfights, Adams is simply terrific.
His partner, the indomitable Pamela Northrup, who also produced Quadrille, is highly believable as the cynical baker whose tender but hardened heart melts like a lump of caramelized sugar given a chance for love.
Quadrille is a well-done production of a simply delightful romantic tale about the complicated simplicity of love. When all is said and done, however, playwright Melynda Kiring is right that “love will never be anything else.”
Running Time: Two hours plus a 15-minute intermission.