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An Evening of French Farce

 1997, Off-Off-Broadway, NY

 

globe.jpg (33645 bytes)    globe2.jpg (11075 bytes)
These pictures are hanging in the lobby of the American Globe Theater in NYC.
(They were behind glass so the picture quality is not great.)

Review from the Off-Off-Broadway Review (www.oobr.com), Volume 4, Number 2, Aug. 1997:

By Georges Feydeau/Moliere
Directed by Allegra Schorr/David Davalos 
American Globe Theatre

Review by Scott Vogel 

Since the word "farce" originates from the French farci, it is hardly surprising that such plays are "stuffed" with complex plots, endless coincidences, sparkling wit, and no small amount of slapstick. Productions of farces are often further stuffed, or in this case overstuffed, with desperate attempts to "punch-up" humor that is assumed to be dated. Allegra Schorr, in her director's introduction to Feydeau's Brothers in Crime, is hopeful that "we can still enjoy the lessons of the past," but there is more than a hint of resignation here. Her solution? To serve up a generous helping of ham farci -- a dish here defined as an evening of mugging and overgesticulation by actors. Given the obvious talent of the performers here, this should never have happened. 

For his part, David Davalos, the director of Sganarelle, was not content with eye-popping stares and homages to the Three Stooges. He "added" modernization to the comic mix. This was an interesting premise, but it seemed haphazardly tacked on. While the pre-show music was '80s, lovebeads and hiphuggers suggested '60s (great costumes by Nan Young); furthermore, it is impossible to state what comment on either the play or society was intended by all this time-travelling. 

Farces must be stuffed, but never randomly. Feydeau, ever protective of his recipe, once insisted that "vaudevilles must be played as if they were a tragedy. Their intentions are betrayed by playing them like a farce." In Brothers, the characters are in a deadly serious situation: all indications are that a murderer has entered their living room. But one would never know it from the broad grins and exaggerated mannerisms shown here, gestures that only undermined the play's great comedy. (No offense is intended to the actors here. It would be a treat to see Trent Dawson, Alyson Reim, and Robert Bowen, Jr., under different directorial circumstances.) It is, however, a pleasure to report that the dog (Dinky) broke character only rarely, yawning several times from his perch on a desk. He must have ... no, that would be too easy.

Speaking of the desk, and of the sets in general, James Basewicz's pink-and-gray arched structure and Jacqueline Lowry's lighting were just right. Doors flew open and slammed shut completely, and never once did the entire edifice wobble, as is so often the case. 

Often wobbling violently, and to amusing effect, was Ed Baker, in Sganarelle's title role; there were also hints of depth in his reading of the great soliloquy to Honor. As the guardian Lisette, Julia McLaughlin was also notable, both for her line readings and the charming way in which she drank a slurpee. As for the rest, a little friendly directorial advice, courtesy Eric Bentley: "The amateur actor misses it, and tries to act the gaiety. The professional knows that he must act the gravity and trust that the author has injected gaiety into his plot and dialogue." The American Globe Theatre is a dynamic company, with the kind of vigor and polish that other troupes can only envy. It is to be hoped that their next production will not be a farce (both senses intended). 

 

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