Theater archives

The Rover Invades the World Financial Center


Someone at New York Classical Theatre took The Rover’s title a little too literally. The company’s version of Aphra Behn’s 1677 comedy, staged in the One World Financial Center’s glittering glass-and-marble hallways, ranges widely but never finds compelling reasons for roaming.

At a Neapolitan carnival, lusty young Englishmen meet a corresponding number of festively disguised damsels, who are fleeing arranged nuptials or nunnish futures. Mistaken identities, sexy banter, dueling, and ultimately marriages ensue.

It’s fun to wander empty corporate rotundas at night, feeling vaguely sneaky. But the carnival atmosphere dissipates as we’re herded briskly by actors chirping “This way!” Director Karin Coonrod is so keen to exploit every atrium that the commutes between locations are sometimes as long as the scenes themselves—stalling the play’s engine. To compensate for nasty acoustics and occasionally tricky sightlines, the acting is mostly of the grimace-your-consonants-and-thrust-your-pelvis school of classical pantomime.

The touristic production tries to make The Rover into uncomplicated rom-com. But the play’s not actually that nice: Willmore, the titular rover—a Restoration Charlie Sheen—coaxes freebies from a gold-hearted hooker, and almost rapes his sweetheart’s sister while waiting for the romantic denouement. These dealbreakers get glossed over in the mad rush to an upbeat musical finale—under fake palm trees by a Sunglass Hut.