The Richard Brinsley Sheridan satire of wealth, romance and marriage continues at the Washington, DC, theatre to Oct. 19.
Baxter's cast also includes Tessa Auberjonois as Lydia Languish, David Sabin as Sir Anthony Absolute, Tom Story as Bob Acres, Noel True as Julia, Floyd King as Sir Lucius O'Trigger, Daniel Breaker as Fag, Emery Battis as Thomas and Edward Gero as David.
"In order to woo the idealistic Lydia Languish, to whom wealth means nothing, Captain Jack Absolute offers himself to her as a poor naval officer," according to the respected troupe's production notes. "Standing between the two lovers is an extraordinary collection of comic characters: the captain's acrimonious father, Sir Anthony Absolute; Lydia's quick-tongued aunt, Mrs. Malaprop; and the affable Bob Acres, the captain's friend turned rival."
"The Rivals is a wonderfully silly play," Baxter said in a statement at first rehearsal. "It's called a Restoration comedy, although it isn't, in fact, and it occupied a remarkable place in the dramatic literature of England. When Sheridan wrote The Rivals it was to fulfill the need of a theatre that had become empty of good writing. It's an astonishing play, and its great, great quality is the quality of the wit and conversation. In that sense, because of its style, we call it a late-Restoration comedy.
"When the audience comes to the play, I want them to feel that they've spent a couple of hours in one of the most beautiful cities in England, on an April day when there are flowers in the hedgerows, beautiful girls, handsome, gay, young men, and marvelous eccentrics … and where it's spring." Baxter is an international actor and director who calls The Shakespeare Theatre one of his artistic homes. He has also written several plays, including 56 Duncan Terrace, Barnaby and the Old Boys and Cavell (with Joan Plowright). His book, "My Sentiments Exactly," was published in 1999.
The play also features Jenna Sokolowski as Lucy and Chris Cantrell, Tiffany Fillmore, Caleb Mayo, Samuel Bednar Schachter and Timothy Sekk.
Designers are Simon Higlett (set), Robert Perdziola (costumes), Peter West (lighting) and Martin Desjardins (sound). Karma Camp is the choreographer.
Tickets range $16-$66. The Shakespeare Theatre is at 450 7th St. NW, between D and E streets, just off Pennsylvania Avenue, between the Capitol and the White House.
For information, call (202) 547-1122 or visit www.shakespearetheatre.org.