“The Way of the World”, a Morality Tale with No Punishment

Now Playing at the Folger Theatre

By Sara Dudley Brown, Theatre Editor

A sophisticated party of one-percenters in the Hamptons in Folger Theatre’s The Way of the World. Pictured left to right: Eliza Huberth, Daniel Morgan Shelley, Elan Zafir, Brandon Espinoza, Kristine Nielsen, and Erica Dorfler.  Photo by Teresa Wood.

Today, dear readers, we are discussing manners and morals in the 21st Century. Is there any evidence that they even exist? Discuss. Well, to help you with talking points, are you up for a show about the manners and morals of the l%? Nope, neither was I. And toward that end, none are on display during Folger Theatre’s “The Way of the World”; however, we do get a parade of vacuous, whining rich people just trying to spend or make a buck and stay afloat in the Hamptons. One of them, Mae, has the good sense to at least WANT to rise above the ridiculousness of her friends’ and relatives’ behavior. Oh, really? Why?

Henry (Luigi Sottile) and friend Charles (Brandon Espinoza, right) enjoy a cocktail and the Hamptons’ sun in Theresa Rebeck’s The Way of the World. Photo by Teresa Wood.

Theresa Rebeck wrote and directed this adaptation of the original 1700 William Congreve play for the Women’s Voices Theatre Festival. Rebeck, as did Congreve, skewers today’s super rich and not so famous as they whine and dine, drink and shop, talk about and sometimes have sex, all the while plotting revenge schemes while trying to satisfy every possible human desire. Sound like fun? As the Folger dramaturg, Michele Osherow, said in her program notes, “It is worth noting that morality is not altogether lacking from Congreve’s plays; it is, however, less attractive than wit.”

Rene (Kristine Nielsen) and her niece Mae (Eliza Huberth, right) find cause for great celebration in Theresa Rebeck’s The Way of the World.  Photo by Teresa Wood

Even so, our super rich heroine, Mae, beautifully and delicately played by gorgeous Eliza Huberth, actually wants to do some good in the world with her $600 million inheritance. She says she wants to go to Haiti (Haiti?) to work and to donate all her money to them. However, when her Aunt Rene, the fabulously funny Kristin Nielsen, hears her plan, she screams, “That place is a sh… (looking straight at the audience)…ambles!” Raucous laughter!

Kristine Nielsen stars as the ever-watchful Aunt Rene in Theresa Rebeck’s comedy The Way of the World.  Photo by Teresa Wood.

As one audience member said of this production: “Horrifying!” I would be more moderate in my thinking—but, it is somewhat disturbing all the same. Why would anyone want to be in the company of these ingrates? Well, the cast, thank God, is outrageously funny, good looking, and, for the same reason we secretly (or not) like to watch reality shows of the superrich and famous, they satisfy our curiosity about why the 1% behaves so badly. Train wrecks come to mind.

But there are other good reasons to see this outwardly beautiful production. Go to see it also for the lovely Alexander Dodge set which showcases to-drool-over name brand shoes, purses, and other tchotchkes most of the females will love seeing, in perfect stacked rows of white boxes with mid-Twentieth Century-vibe furniture. The set is beautifully lit by Donald Holder in the same hues as the onstage cocktails.

Hamptonites Katrina (Erica Dorfler), Lyle (Daniel Morgan Shelley, center), and Charles (Brandon Espinoza) enjoy a cocktail and watch the estate lawn get painted a pristine green in Theresa Rebeck’s comedy The Way of the World.  Photo by Teresa Wood.

I also think you will enjoy Linda Cho’s costumes, which, for the men, are sort of retro-Palm Beach or Hamptons, showcasing Bermuda shorts and jackets with an eclectic mix of madras fabrics as well as Elizabethan-appearing puffy sleeves and shirts with vests. Women’s costumes are a little more chic and rather timeless. Mae and Katrina, whose figures are both stunning, get fabulous frocks to wear. Dresses for the super-rich Rene do, as she says, “Make her look fat.” Even so, her always “on,” scenery-chewing wit, triumphs.

Whether or not you “like” these people, this production will give you hours of discussion points! It’s just “The Way of the World.”

Cast: Erica Dorfler, Katrina; Brandon Espinoza, Charles; Eliza Huberth, Mae; Ashley Austin Morris, Waitress; Kristine Nielsen, Rene; Daniel Morgan Shelley, Lyle; Luigi Sottile, Henry; Elan Zafir, Reg.

Creative Team: Theresa Rebeck, Playwright and Director; Alexander Dodge, Scenic Design; Linda Cho, Costume Design; Donald Holder, Lighting Design; M.L. Dogg, Sound Design; Michele Osherow, Resident Dramaturg; Eisenberg/Beans Casting, New York Casting; Scott Hammar, Production Stage Manager; Jessica Short, Assistant Stage Manager.

Performances and Ticket Information: “The Way of the World” is on stage at Folger Theatre now through February 11, 2018. Tickets may be purchased through the Folger Theatre Box Office at 202-544-7077 or online at


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One Comment

  1. Sounds interesting and edgy. I am confused, though, about Mae’s interest in Haiti specifically. Is it coincidence, or was the script rewritten to have a current relevance?

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