‘The Rivals’ to Bring Mischief and Fun to the U


Photo by Todd Collins. Courtesy U of U Theatre Department.

By Palak Jayswal, Arts Editor


The University of Utah’s Department of Theatre is set to debut their production of “The Rivals” this Friday, April 5. The play, written by Richard Brinsley Sheridan in 1775, is a commentary on the romantic challenges between the aristocratic class and the bourgeois. While the summary of the production makes it sound “Romeo and Juliet”-esque, the actual show is far from it. One of the two productions which built Sheridan’s career in the theater circuit, “The Rivals” is a sure bet of laughter, fun times and an acute lack of self-awareness.

For those of us who aren’t well immersed in the theater world, two categories provide a clarifying distinction — comedy and tragedy. “The Rivals” is the former of the two. While the topics of the play weren’t entirely uncommon during the time period — forbidden love is a clear one — Sheridan did take a different route in presenting them, bringing the witty, remarkable characters to life with off-color humor. It’s not surprising, especially since Sheridan first released the production on January 15, 1775, that he didn’t receive the response he was hoping for. Naturally, he shut down the production, rewrote the entire play in 11 days and resumed production. The revival was much more of a success, something that Sheridan contributed to hands-on when he published a glowing review of the production under a pseudonym.

Alexandra Harbold, an assistant professor in the theater department, was invited to direct “The Rivals.” When asked what makes the university’s adaptation of this production so special, she provided several explanations. “I love the physicality and effervescence of Sheridan’s writing. The creative team have met that in their design and choreography. Space evokes the bright, beautiful newness of the spa town of Bath, England in 1774. The play is goofy and elegant at a go, and ‘The Rivals‘ Company have run into the work full tilt, oftentimes literally, with a playfulness that is a joy to witness.”

Photo by Todd Collins. Courtesy U of U Theatre Department.

This playfulness is something to be on the lookout for throughout the production. While parts of the play may seem too blunt or sexual for standard Utahn morals, Harbold says this is part of the joy of Sheridan’s play. “’The Rivals’ is a play full of mischief and delight. There is benevolent humanity in Sheridan’s play-world that feels welcoming and hospitable. The play wants us to lean in and be complicit in the fun.”

Sheridan and Harbold, although generations apart, are both striving to bring this honest mischief to life in times where it is needed the most. “The Rivals” presents the perfect opportunity to be a part in this kind of fun.

The University of Utah’s production of “The Rivals” will be performed from April 5 to 14 at Babcock Theatre at 7:30 p.m. There will be two matinee shows on April 13 and 14 at 2 p.m.

You can buy tickets here. Entry is free for University of Utah students with your UCard.

Please be advised: the production contains mature and suggestive content. Children under four years of age, including babies in arms, will not be admitted.

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