Prenzie Player Present: Season 11 and The Rover by Aphra Behn
Swashbuckling with a Bit of Romance
In our eleventh year, the Prenzie Players will be exploring the power of women and their voice
across time. The season kicks off with The Rover, a feminist play by England’s first professional
female playwright. In the spring, we feature Antigone, a Greek tragedy of one woman’s stand
against her government. And we will finish the season with the world premiere of Bear Girl,
written by J.C. Luxton, an original play set in the historical Quad Cities, telling the story of the
rise of Black Hawk through the eyes of the Sauk women. With this selection, along with three
women directors at the helm, we hope to offer three distinct portrayals of women’s strength that
will foster an open forum for dialogue in the Quad Cities community.
The season kicks off with The Rover, directed by Stephanie Burrough. The Rover, written
by Aphra Behn, is a dark comedy that mixes seventeenth century sexual politics, comic
buffoonery and romantic intrigue in Naples at Carnivale. Part swash-buckling drama, and part
romantic comedy, The Rover challenges actors and audience alike to examine the roles that men
and women in the realms of sex, love, and power.
Friday, October 19, 8pm Q & A with the cast, director and production crew!
Saturday, October 20, 8pm
Sunday, October 21, 2pm Our only matinee!
Friday, October 26, 8pm
Saturday, October 27, 8pm
Sunday, October 28, 8pm
You will find us at the same space where you saw Red by the QC Theatre Workshop, 1730
Wilkes Ave, Davenport, IA. Doors 30 minutes prior to curtain. Tickets: $10 and are available at
the door or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The reservation line is up and running too! Just
call (309) 278-8426 if you want to reserve a ticket.
‘Rover’ wanders for Prenzie Players
by Sean Leary
The currencies of courtships and copulations carry “The Rover,” the Prenzie Players’ latest, which echoes the life cycle of most loves.
Like so many relationships, it begins with a bang, is filled with earnest effort, has highlights and lowlights, enjoys its share of laughs, goes on a little too long, and ends with resignation and a bit of disappointment. In retrospect, however, it’s ultimately worth the trip.
It features some terrific performances, creative and clever direction, and wonderfully liquid and ornate language, which is a pleasure to hear delivered by such artful talents.
But by play’s end, it reminded me of a beautifully decorated house built upon a simplistic foundation requiring attention at its most basic level. The talent involved and the efforts demonstrated deserve better than the meandering plot and disappointing conventionalities that betray the promising moments of bittersweet smarts and the darkly interesting characterization of the play.
“The Rover” launches nicely, with a wonderfully spiky exchange between sisters Hellena (Diane Emmert) and Florinda (Kathleen Isreal). Hellena is being sent to the nunnery, but she longs to experience love, or at least lust, before her life “sentence.” Florinda is chafing against being sold off to a wealthy older man and instead wants to marry the man she loves, Belville (Cole McFarren).
Enter Belville’s friends, Frederick (Andy Koski), Blunt (Mike Schulz) and Willmore (Jeremy Mahr), who aid him while pursuing their own romantic interests.
Set during Naples’ Carnivale in the 17th century, the play lives up to its name, tromping along various plotlines, some intriguing, some fair, some needless. I’d have liked the latter axed or trimmed to make more room for the romantic quadrangle between Willmore, Hellena, Don Antonio (Patrick Gimm) and Angelica (Maggie Woolley). The scenes between them imbue the show with its black-hearted mercenary edge, and the jagged interplay between Mahr, Woolley and Emmert is its most combustible component.
Bringing a big, bawdy presence to the stage from the moment he mounts it, Mahr is masterful as the indulgent, quick-tongued cad who toggles between them. Woolley is blackly intense and sexy as the courtesan who means to sell her body richly but discounts her heart. And Emmert glides with feline charisma as the distaff romantic foil to Mahr. I would’ve been more than happy with this being the driving force of the plot and the other characters’ interactions feeding into it, but, alas …
Would I recommend “The Rover?” Yes, for the acting and direction, and because it does contain some big laughs and cuttingly fun moments. But I wish I could recommend it more. Ultimately, it’s a case of something of so much promise failing to live up to its potential.
Just like most relationships.
Carnival Cruising Lines: “The Rover,” at the QC Theatre Workshop through October 28
River Cities Reader Review
by Thom White
Jeremy Mahr seems to be dancing with his dialogue as Willmore, the titular character in the Prenzie Players’ The Rover. Author Aphra Behn’s words trip the light fantastic off his tongue, with Mahr presenting his rakish playboy so playfully that it’s as though he’s fluent in the stylized, 17th Century language of the period. And when the meaning of what he’s saying is expressed through his entire body – particularly during Willmore’s more amorous lines – the obviously fully invested Mahr is incredibly fun to watch.
There’s a particular, fully amusing moment here that exemplifies the tone of his characterization, when Mahr, in one fluid move, grabs a beer from under a bench while spinning 360 degrees and descending to a seated, side-saddle position. But this kind of playful suaveness inhabits Mahr’s entire performance as a man who, during carnival season in Naples, falls in love with Diane Emmert’s Hellena – prior to her brother’s imposed imprisonment of her in a convent – and also wins the love of Maggie Woolley’s Angelica, a beautiful and well-known courtesan.
There’s not much that’s subtle about director Stephanie Burrough’s telling of this tale, starting with Emmert’s exaggerated enunciation – and the matching physical interpretations of her words – in the opening scene. And many of the other actors here match this style of voicing and playing Behn’s characters with similar broadness. Yet while their efforts sometimes border on overacting, they land on the comedic side of acceptability, as The Rover is, after all, a comedy – and a rather crass one at that.
Woolley, as usual, drips with sexuality, from her sultry alto voice to her sensual demeanor to – why not? – her pole dance, one that elicited applause during Friday’s performance. When Woolley and Mahr share the stage, just the two of them, they create that which I most love about theatre: the undeniable invitation to escape into a dream world. There’s a magic in their chemistry that adds credibility to their staged infatuation, and I was lost in their moments together just as much as Woolley and Mahr appeared lost in each other’s eyes.
The characters’ affections, however, are fleeting, as Willmore quickly returns his attention and love to Hellena, prompting Angelica to vow revenge. But as serious as that sounds, there are more laugh-worthy moments in Burrough’s piece than tragic, or even romantic, ones. In one of the best, following Willmore’s liaison with Angelica, he’s approached by a masked Hellena, pressing the need for him to remove the evidence of his recent actions – namely, Angelica’s lipstick – quickly. This causes Andy Koski’s Frederick to rush to wipe the stains from his friend Willmore’s forehead, lips, and neck, with Koski, at his most hysterical, attempting to mask what he’s doing by leaning on Mahr’s shoulder with a Cheshire-cat grin on his face.
It is Reader employee Mike Schulz, however, who gets to be a part of Burrough’s funniest scene, during which Schulz’s dippy Blunt is convinced that a woman he’s just met loves him, not knowing she’s a prostitute. Blunt’s struggle to quickly undress elicits loud laughter, which is prolonged when he tries out several seductive poses while Catie Osborn’s Lucetta, in the next room, slips into something more comfortable. The most nuanced moment in Schulz’s performance, though, comes when Blunt tells his friends of his newfound love; with excitement in the actor’s voice and a twinkle in his eye, he delivers undertones of naïve love and childlike wonder.
In another subplot, Cole McFarren offers an earnest portrayal of Belville, the friend of Frederick and Blunt who loves Hellena’s sister Florinda, played with equal sincerity, and dashes of innocence and hope, by Kathleen Isreal. And Florinda, we discover, is betrothed to Don Antonio, a character that showcases Patrick Gimm’s ability to wear pompous class believably and well.
At almost three hours in length including its intermission, The Rover does feel a bit long, particularly in the final scenes that find Behn wrapping up her storylines. However, under Burrough’s direction, the Prenzie Players bring quite a bit of laughter to those hours – inducing more than a few really hearty laughs – along the way.