Benjamin Wells Park & Sean Childress in The Coward. Photo courtesy The Bard’s Town.
By Nick Jones
Directed by Amos Dreisbach
Reviewed by Janelle Renee Dunn
Entire contents are copyright © 2017 Janelle Renee Dunn. All rights reserved.
What makes a man manly? Is manhood measured by the strength of one’s mind or by the strength of one’s muscle? That is the theme explored in The Bard Theatre’s latest production, Nick Jones’ The Coward.
Under the direction of Amos Dreisbach, The Coward is a witty, laugh-out-loud adventure. We are introduced to a young gentleman name Lucidus Culling, played by Ben Park. At the top of the show Lucidus is being scolded by his father, portrayed by Sean Childress, for being the only Culling son who has not yet been in a duel. Due to Lucidus’ reluctance to challenge anyone to a duel, he is beginning to get the reputation of being a coward. To make his father proud Lucidus picks a fight with an elderly man and challenges him to a duel.
However, Lucidus learns he will not be facing the old man but rather the old man’s son instead.
Nervous Lucidus searches for someone to step in for him and hires the scoundrel Henry Blaine, played by Eliot Zellers. That is when calamity ensues.
Everything about this production just works. The cast gives superb performances. Ben Park made Lucidus a character that you could root for even when he comes off as a whiny child.
Park’s Lucidus plays nicely against Eliot Zellers’ Henry Blaine. They share the stage well without one pulling focus away from the other. Zellers did have a few slip-ups on his lines, but in a way they worked for his character.
I appreciated Dreisbach’s casting of Tony Smith as Gavin Klaff, one of Lucidus’s best friends. By casting Smith, a Black man, Dreisbach is able to build on the social commentary peppered throughout the script. Klaff is constantly being dismissed by Lucidus, and his other friend Robert (played by Lee Stein), for his family not truly being of noble blood. Klaff even goes so far as bringing papers of his family lineage to prove his worth, which was a scene that I could connect with all to well. Smith’s portrayal of Klaff was well done.
However, it was the presence of Megan Adair, as Isabelle Dupree, in the second act that truly brought the house down. Adair’s Isabelle was the right mix of conceited, witty and charming. From her facial reaction upon seeing scrawny Lucidus for the first time, to her last dying breath, she had me laughing out loud.
With a stellar cast, fabulous costumes and keen direction The Coward is a production worth seeing.
Featuring Ben Park, Lee Stein, Tony Smith, Sean Childress, Megan Adair, Eliot Zellers, Jacob Cooper, J.P. Lebangood
May 19 – June 2, 2017
The Bard’s Town
1801 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40205
Janelle Renee Dunn, originally from Duncan, South Carolina, is an actor, singer and teaching artist. She has a MFA in Acting from the University of Louisville and a BA in Theatre (Directing) from Berea College. Before becoming the Performing Arts teacher at Chancey Elementary this school year, Janelle Renee taught drama workshops and drama clubs to students for three years. She also appeared in the title role of a local kid’s touring show, Kylie for President (Drama by George). Janelle Renee is also the Co-Artistic Director for Smoked Apple Theater Group. She recently made her professional directorial debut with SATG’s production of Oh Lord! Mamma Done Burnt the Biscuits. Acting credits include: Click, Clack, Moo (Stage One), ShowBoat (Kentucky Opera), Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill (Bunbury Theatre), Kiss of the Spiderwoman and Rocky Horror Show (Pandora Productions), Much Ado About Nothing and Becoming Mother’s (Looking for Lilith) and Doubt (Wayward Actors).