— Production poster
THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO
The Marriage of Figaro is a hoot. Well, two-thirds of a hoot anyway.
United Players’ season-ending production, Adam Henderson’s adaptation of the Beaumarchais play that Mozart adapted for his opera, is clever and funny much of the time. Despite some casting issues and a structure that requires it to be about twenty minutes too long, this is a Marriage worth celebrating.
The plot is too complicated and absurd to explain in detail, but essentially it involves the plots and counterplots of Figaro, played with panache and great energy by Patrick Spencer, and the servant Suzanna (Mayumi Yoshida) to get together in the face of the mannered, self-loving Count (a very funny Chris Robson), who wants every woman, including Suzanna, for himself.
A vampy “older” woman, Marcelina (nicely performed by Jackie Minns), and her old friend Dr. Bartholio (the excellent Seth G. Little) plot revenge against Figaro, which means forcing him to marry Marcelina.
Meanwhile, the Count himself is married but has little interest in the Countess Rosine (Anna Theodosakis, who provides the bonus of a lovely operatic voice). The Countess is, however, pursued by young Cherubino (Dexter van der Schyff), who is hopelessly attracted to ALL women, and spends much of the play in hiding or in woman’s clothes in order to achieve his romantic ends.
Add in the lusts and follies of old Bazile (a somewhat robotic David Secunda), the maid Fanchette (Sarah Harrison), and a gardener and judge both played with nutty comic delight by David C. Jones, and you have the mix of romantic comedy, sex farce and Pythonesque absurdity that makes up this Marriage.
The play works best when Henderson keeps the pace up and the cast’s strongest actors are strutting their stuff. It sags in the face of some weak acting—always a threat with United Players’ uneven mix of talent and experience—and conventional comic plot devices. As other critics have pointed out, van der Schyff seems much too young a cherub to be playing the lustful Cherubino.
And the fact that all the many plotlines need to be resolved results in a series of anticlimactic scenes that drag things beyond the point at which The End would have felt logical and satisfying.
John R. Taylor’s handsome, clever set and Chanel McCartney’s delightful costumes add a nice visual dimension to this large-cast 18th century French comedy, a show that would just never get produced by any other company in our city. United Players once again reveals its indispensable place in Vancouver’s theatrical ecology.