Aphra Behn's The Rover is a ribald Restoration comedy set during Carnival time. The University Theatre's production (playing through Nov. 4 in Vilas Hall's Mitchell Theatre) transports the play to the Caribbean, where three lovely sisters meet up with four lusty cavaliers.
This is an ambitious undertaking for the undergraduate cast. There are some faltering accents and a few bungled lines, but the actors approach the work with gusto.
The sisters, Florinda (Nicole Gottleib), Valeria (Paloma Nozicka) and Hellena (Liz Holtan), are intent on having some fun behind the back of their sanctimonious brother, Don Pedro (Cyrus Anderson), who has strictly mapped their futures, including a nunnery for Hellena and an arranged marriage for Florinda. Florinda's true love, the British Captain Belville (Thom Rehwaldt), has arrived on the island with his friends Frederick (Michael Ferdinand Aiello), Blunt (Ryan Driscoll) and Willmore (Peter Bissen). Cue elaborate disguises, mistaken identities, lascivious assignations and well-executed sword fights.
Several actors show maturity beyond their years and fully inhabit their characters. Holtan, with her delicate features and mischievous performance, is the most comfortable with the language's rhythms. Bissen gives Willmore just the right amount of languid loutishness, making you root for him despite his randy behavior. Driscoll, who ends up sporting only a prostitute's bloomers, manages to seem goofy and benign even while making vile threats to Florinda.
The well-crafted set captures the Caribbean's colors and architecture. Scenic designer Michele Fields has a promising future.