Play Commentary and Review: the Rover

Although I enjoyed the performance of The Rover, I found it harder to follow than The Taming of the Shrew, probably because I had not read it beforehand. My lack of familiarity also hindered my ability to find the humor – I saw other people in the audience laughing, but I had no idea what they were laughing at.
It was evident that The Rover was written later than Shakespeare’s plays because it featured strong heroines. Femininity had not changed, but women used their sexuality to get what they wanted. Since plays in the Restoration Era would have been produced on a bigger stage, the actors used every inch of the stage for the sword fights.
I was surprised at the amount of rape in the play. Whether someone is drunk or not, Carnival is not an excuse to break all the rules and have a rape free-for-all. Although Willmore had more than one opportunity to ally with the audience, and he was funny when he realized Florinda was on stage because he was drunk, that is not an opportunity or an excuse to rape her. Why did Florinda keep her mouth shut when Willmore proposed marriage to Hellena? Maybe because she wanted to see her sister happy, but I still think she should have said something.
Along the same lines of rape and sex, I was completely confused by Angelica Bianca. Yes, I know she’s a really pretty prostitute, but why does she get so hurt when Willmore goes back to Hellena? She’s probably had all the guys tell her she’s beautiful. And because she sells her body, sex does not mean as much as it could. What makes Willmore different?
 I was both surprised and somewhat disappointed that Allison did not have a bigger role. Maybe part of me is biased because I think she is a really great actress and she is capable of a lot more. It was hard to not see her as Kate; seeing her as a clown was weird. I only say somewhat disappointed, though, because I understand that she is not the only actress and everyone should have a chance to play the lead roles. I was impressed by Lauren Ballard. Not that I thought she was not capable of playing more than Biondello-type clown characters, but she brought a powerful edginess to Hellena’s character. She was not going into the convent without a fight. Lauren’s height also surprised me. Since the audience only sees Biondello from a distance it is harder to tell. But because she was in the major scenes in this play, it was almost impossible not to notice how short she is.
Florinda was interesting to see. Bridget is a great actress, but I felt Florinda could have been a bit more feminine. I’m not sure if it was just her mannerisms, or if her comment in the talk-back about not being super feminine had any influence on how I saw her portrayal. However, Florinda is a strong character because she would not be forced into marriage. She loved Belvile, and that was that. Status and fortune could not sway her. Bridget’s facial expressions said it all.
I had a hard time keeping track of which actor played which character. This was complicated by the fact that in one scene, Florinda and Hellena had a father, but in the next, the same actor – Rene Thornton – played their brother, Don Pedro. Because I had trouble keeping track of the characters, it was hard to remember the relationships between the characters.
I was also confused as to why people were trying to force Hellena into a convent in the first place. I just think it would be easier to find advantageous marriages for both girls rather than forcing one into a convent when she obviously does not want to go. Unless she is wild like Kate in Taming of the Shrew, and everyone thinks it would be easier to put her away instead of deal with her. Both Florinda and Don Pedro say something about how Hellena is “designed” to be a nun, but unfortunately it is never explained further.

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