Let’s get busy, baby – a review of “The Busy Body”

By Michael “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant

Marplot (Tim Colbert) constantly confounds his friends with his interference into their affairs in Susanna Centlivre’s eighteenth century comedy, “The Busy Body.”

Sir George Airy (Nathaniel Yost) is in love with Miranda (Amy Dick). His friend, Charles (Evan W. Saunders) is in love with Isabinda (Sadie Crow). A couple of obstacles stand in their way. Miranda’s guardian Sir Francis Gripe (Jay Keenan) is in love with his ward and won’t give her up without a fight. Isabinda’s father, Sir Jealous Traffick (Nathan Freshwater), has promised his daughter’s hand to another.

George and Charlies plot against Gripe and Traffick to win the hands of their fair maidens, but a well-meaning buttinsky, Marplot, gums up the works. He inadvertently foils his friends whilst trying to learn their secrets, causing chaos in his wake.

George and Charles are aided by Isabinda’s right-hand-woman, Patch (Nancy Bach Love) and Charles’ servant, Whisper (Tyler Jennings).

Side note: The names are a bit on the nose. Traffick wants to give his daughter to a Spaniard – he’s literally trafficking her overseas. When Whisper speaks – he is all but inaudible. Marplot – by definition – is a meddler.

Greek philosopher Theophrastus once said, “In the proffered services of the busybody there is much of the affectation of kind-heartedness, and little efficient aid.”

Take the Theophrastus quote, crank it up to maximum volume and you have “The Busy Body.”

Marplot blunders into more mischief than Lucy Ricardo, Jack Tripper and Willy Gilligan combined.

The show was produced in 1709, long before the invention of the sitcom. The show, however, is very much a situational comedy (except “The Busy Body” has better costumes).

The characters are gloriously adorned by Kim Brown at Spotlight Costumes. The rich pageantry of the clothing really elevated the play, making it something special.

Director John E. Lane, Jr. is also credited as set designer. His set is elegantly appointed with sparse, but perfectly appropriate scenery. Note: too much scenery can be overbearing. Not enough can make actors look lost on stage. This fell into the Goldilocks zone.

The show is very tongue-in-cheek. It’s silly bit of cotton candy, a fluffy ball of nothing. There are also a lot of characters running around. It’s easy to get lost if you’re not familiar with the work.

There are a few funny moments. The inaudible buzzing of Whisper and the reactions from the other characters who were out of earshot were laugh out loud funny.

While the show is named for Marplot, he isn’t really the central character and there was no strong point of view.

The show did use an ancient theatrical contrivance: characters had asides, wherein the characters spoke directly to the audience about their plight. However, the frequent asides by various characters placed the protagonists farther back into the shadows.

“The Busy Body” did have some very fine performances from the distaff members of the team. Dick shines as Miranda. There’s a familial chemistry between Isabinda (Crow) and her servant (Bach Love). The actors display a moving mother/daughter relationship between the characters.

Kudos for the Red Masquers and John E. Lane, Jr. for bringing this eighteenth century playwright into the spotlight (into Spotlight’s sumptuous costumes).

Sophisticated palates may want to stray away from this production. If, however, you’re in the mood for a silly romp, go get busy with “The Busy Body.”

– MB

“The Busy Body” runs till November 12 at the Genesius Theatre, on the Duquesne University campus, 600 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA. For more information, click here.


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