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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Feb. 24, 2006

ISU Theatre presents comedic masterpiece

by Samantha Beres

Poor Mrs. Malaprop, in a desperate attempt to impress people, uses big words. She says things like "He is the very pineapple of politeness," (where she meant pinnacle). Or, "I resemble that remark!"

ISU students in The Rivals

Iowa State students Philip Henry, Jessica Hanson and Steve Vander Linden in The Rivals.

Indeed, the term malapropism, the incorrect use of a word that sounds similar to the word meant to be used, comes from Mrs. Malaprop.

She's just one hilarious character in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's play The Rivals, which will be presented by ISU Theatre Feb. 24-26 and March 3-5.

Mrs. Malaprop's heiress niece Lydia Languish despises money and dreams of running off with someone to live an impoverished, romantic life. The well-off Captain Jack Absolute disguises himself a poor ensign to woo her. But when his father proposes him (the real him) as a worthy candidate for Lydia's hand, Jack becomes his own rival.

The Rivals was written in 1775 by a 23-year-old Sheridan. While it definitely is a period piece (the costumes and some of the language say so), the characters and the plots are timeless, said theater professor Jane Cox, who directs the play.

"What I find interesting about this play is that the characters in it are very typical of contemporary people you and I know," she said.

There are parents who want things for their children, and the children aren't necessarily interested in having these things. There are gossips and people who pretend they are a certain way to impress others. The characters also represent a range of ages and classes.

Cox added that The Rivals employs a certain style that might be a different experience for playgoers. In theater and film lingo, it's called "breaking the fourth wall," and it happens when a character turns to speak directly to the audience.

"It's a way of revealing to the audience what is really going on in the character's thoughts," Cox said. "It's part of the fun.

"The Rivals is one of those scripts that has been done again and again and will continue to be done because of what it has to say about human beings and the often funny ways we interact with each other," she added.

The Rivals performances are at Fisher Theater. Friday and Saturday shows begin at 7:30 p.m. Sunday matinees begin at 2 p.m.

Admission is $13 for adults, $12 for senior citizens and $7 for students. Tickets can be purchased at the Iowa State Center Box Office, TicketMaster locations, or by phone, 233-1888.


The Rivals was written in 1775 by a 23-year-old Richard Brinsley Sheridan. While it definitely is a period piece (the costumes and some of the language say so), the characters and plots are timeless.