By Pierre Augustin de Beaumarchais. Adapted and directed by by Adam Henderson. A United Players production at the Jericho Arts Centre on Saturday, June 7. Continues until June 29
The artists in this production of The Marriage of Figaro are going for it, which is great. Unfortunately, they don’t always get it.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart adapted this play by Pierre Augustin de Beaumarchais into a comic opera and you can see why: the script is overflowing with operatic excess and absurdity. It’s also surprisingly subversive: some say that it sparked the French Revolution.
Figaro is a play about servants getting the best of their titled masters and women wresting power from men on the sexual playing field. In the central strand of the convoluted plot, a minion named Figaro schemes with his fiancée Suzanna, who’s a chambermaid, to prevent their employer, Count Almaviva, from exercising the droit du seigneur and taking Suzanna’s virginity on her wedding night.
Adam Henderson has adapted and directed the script in a freewheeling manner that matches the rebellious material. Characters speak, they sing snippets from the opera, and they stamp their feet like flamenco dancers when they’re feeling passionate. As the audience is returning from intermission, cast members welcome back groups and individuals with personal performances on guitars and castanets. And in the character of a drunken gardener, David C. Jones improvises rhyming poems.
Some of the actors ride this style skillfully. Patrick Spencer makes a winningly alert and energetic Figaro. Chris Robson rolls charmingly in excess, giving Count Almaviva a broad Castilian accent and outrageously entitled manner. Although Jones seems to be one of the few people in the cast who isn’t even attempting a Spanish accent, he commits to the broadness of both of his characters—the drunken gardener and an idiotic judge—and it pays off. Others in the supporting cast—notably Sarah Harrison as the bimbo, Fanchette, and Seth G. Little as the grumpy Dr. Bartholio—also shape crisp comic characters.
There are large holes in this semi-professional production, though. Playing the servant Bazile, David Secunda’s line readings are painfully deliberate and over the top. And Dexter van der Schyff should simply not have been cast as the young courtier Cherubino. Van der Schyff is so childlike that the sexual shenanigans involving Cherubino feel creepy, and this young actor doesn’t have the chops that the comic material requires.
Director Henderson often fails to fill his outsized vision. The pace is slack, partly because the playing area is too large. And a good many of the theatrical flourishes go nowhere. Playing Countess Rosine, Anna Theodosakis sings one aria beautifully but, too often, the bursts of music are underwhelming. Unless it’s comic genius, I don’t want to watch a character throw her shawl around. And, if you’re going to end with flamenco, you’d better make sure that you find somebody who can thrill with their dancing.
Vision: A. Execution: C+.