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COTILLION, Lifeline Theatre. Playwright Christina Calvit again adapts historical-romance writer Georgette Heyer for the stage: Calvit dramatized The Talisman Ring in 1996. Set in Regency England, Cotillion is a likable Austen clone celebrating the pluck and resourcefulness of Kitty Charing. The poor ward of a mean guardian who will disinherit her if she doesn't marry one of her cousins, she induces her good-hearted cousin Freddy to proffer a pretend proposal, thereby exchanging her country captivity for a month in the capital. Under Freddy's increasingly sensible guidance, Kitty embarks on various matchmaking adventures, learning to distinguish Mr. Right from Lord Wrong. Amid the swirl of cotillions and soirees, she encounters unexpected worth and hard-earned swinishness. Fortunately, the outcome is not predictable: Kitty's true love, proven by adversity, arrives with none of the inevitability of romance.

Particularly in the potboiling second act, Calvit can't quite tame the novel's prolix plot. But she does provide intriguing situations and colorful characters, depicted broadly if not deeply in Dorothy Milne's knowing staging and garbed in Regency elegance by Kim Fencl Rak. Jennifer Tyler's wary Kitty is a study in demure determination, steering a courageous course though the gauntlet of cousins. The other characters are broad-brush caricatures by contrast; notable are John Neisler's kindly twit, Steve Key's French adventurer, Kelly Van Kirk's rotten rake, Kendra Thulin's merry minx, and Krista Lally's charming chatterbox. --Lawrence Bommer

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