Ben Jonson revealed the comic dimensions of greed in his classic 17th-century satire, "Volpone." In the mid-20th century, Larry Gelbart set the plot and characters in the San Francisco of the 1880s and called it "Sly Fox."
Near the end of the 20th century, the Colonial Players in Annapolis give us a production of Gelbart's play that finds all the humor in the sin of avarice.
In the title role of Foxwell Sly, Frank B. Moorman delivers another first-rate performance.
His expressive face and gestures display a wide range of emotions, even without dialogue, as Sly pretends to be terminally ill and ready to leave his estate to a deserving heir.
He convinces a number of friends that each will be the heir, provided they lavish their treasured possessions on him.
Fools and miscreants
The audience is treated to a parade of gullible fools and miscreants, none deserving sympathy.
There's Simon Able, Sly's aid and accomplice, expertly played by William F. Rowel. On stage almost constantly, Rowel is terrific, cunning and clever, conveying his character's irrepressible joy, despite being at the beck and call of Sly.
Able is the most likable of the lot, and Rowel easily shows Able's desire for wealth so that he can spend it on life's pleasures.
Less likable is miserly octogenarian Jethro Crouch, who disinherits his son in the hope of being named Sly's sole heir. Duncan Hood plays the role with a comic skill reminiscent of Tim Conway. Hood clearly relishes his character and is hilarious as he places his cane ahead of him and, wobble-kneed, dances back and forth to stand even with it.
Also relishing his role is Mike Smith, making his Colonial Players debut as the police chief whose overactive imagination has him salivating at the thought of Fox's having an affair with the wife of his accountant. Not that the affair ever happened.
Cary Myles plays Abner Truckle, the penurious accountant who gives up his wife to Fox for a shot at the fortune.
Joan Fontana plays Mrs. Truckle, a naive religious fanatic who thinks her prayers have led to Fox's miraculous recovery and is stunned when he lunges lustily after her.
Mary Fawcett Northam is a perfect Miss Fancy, a call girl who wants to marry her longtime customer, Sly, for her chance at the fortune.
And what would a farce about last wills and testaments be without a lawyer to skewer?
This one has Michael Dunlop ably playing Lawyer Craven, who prepares Fox's fill-in-the-blanks will and represents him when his skulduggery inevitably lands him in court.
"Sly Fox," under the direction of Carol Youmans, continues on weekends at the theater on East Street Thursdays through Sundays through May 23.
For reservations, call the Colonial Players box office at 410-268-7373.
Pub Date: 5/07/98