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A Valentines story: Beaus strategy gets thwarted by love
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David Franklin, right, and Jas Sams in the comedy “The Beaux’ Stratagem,” the latest production by Gainesville Theatre Alliance. The play starts Tuesday at the John S. Burd Center for the Performing Arts at Brenau University in Gainesville.

‘The Beaux’ Stratagem’

When: 7:30 p.m. this Tuesday through Feb. 13, 2:30 p.m. Feb. 14, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 16-19, 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 20

Where: Brenau University’s Hosch Theatre, 429 Academy St., Gainesville

How much: $10-$18

More info: 678-717-3624

Poor Archer and Aimwell.

They’ve spent too much of their money on women and wine and now feel compelled to move to the countryside. There, the two young men hope to seduce more young women, take their money and move on to the next unsuspecting town.

Yeah, they sound like a couple of peaches, until their plan is foiled by a very unnatural obsession (for them) — love. But in the midst of poufy 18th century wigs, brocade coats and elaborate walking sticks, "The Beaux’ Stratagem," a farcical comedy presented by Gainesville Theatre Alliance, tells a free-wheeling tale of love just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Director Gay Hammond said the show is considered a Restoration comedy featuring the most common plot aspect of the period: disguise. In "The Beaux’ Stratagem," for example, Archer pretends to be Aimwell’s servant — mainly because they don’t have enough money to both play the role of the rich gentleman.

"It is a love story; it’s a very flirty show," said Hammond, who also has extensive experience in period styles.

As a result, the play is an opportunity to teach the actors — most of whom are students at Brenau University of Gainesville State College — the finer points of using walking sticks, holding fans, wearing corsets and speaking in British accents.

"How to hold them, how to be graceful," she said, "which young people who wear jeans and T-shirts wouldn’t be exposed to."

But the students are embracing the flouncy skirts and over-the-top wigs.

Laura Graham, a second-year student at Gainesville State College, said the play is already taking her out of her usual element, which is musical theater. But the opportunity to embellish her movements for the farce and experiment with a Cockney accent lets her stretch even further.

"Dancing was something I’d done before, and I’m just starting in the acting world," she said. "It’s great. It’s great to get into new characters, and I took voice induction (class) last year, so I got into more accents and things like that."

The actors also choreographed an elaborate sword fighting scene, with the help of a guest choreographer, and worked on embellishing the fight in the scale of the play — but at the same time, not going over the top.

"There is a bit of style to it, certainly, that would not be there in a dramatic fight — with the moves being a little bit more flourishy than they normally would," said David Franklin, a Brenau student who plays the part of Aimwell. "It has a greater sense of fun choreography."

Graham plays three characters in the show, and for each one, she said, she loses a layer of the elaborate costumes designed by GTA’s costume designer, Jeannie Crawford. All the women are laced up in corsets, too, and the men are getting used to high heels — the style of the period, slightly enhanced for the style of the play, too.

Crawford said because her background is in painting — and, specifically, studying master works from the 18th century — she dove right in to the costume designs.

"I love period shows because research is one of my favorite things, and embellishment is my second favorite thing," she said.

"When I research, I get very serious about trying to make things as realistic as possible, and then I have to shake myself, especially with ‘Beaux,’ and realize, ‘This is comedy; I can make the (wig) mop heads oversized,’" she said, adding that it’s "exaggeration in an exaggeration period."

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