note: entire contents copyright 2004 by Carl A. Rossi
Messenger; Nerine; Government Man … Matthew J. Nichols
Scapin … John Kuntz
Octavio … Bret Carr
Sylvester … Bates Wilder
Hyacinthia … Jennifer Lafleur
Argante … Steven Barkhimer
Geronte … Ken Baltin
Leandro … Miguel Cervantes
Zerbinetta … Bonita J. Hamilton
Keyboard … Kaddon Kime
Guitar … Bradley Royds
Percussion … Scott G. Nason
I am not such a purist that I cannot enjoy an update of an old play provided it runs parallel to the spirit of the original, which New Rep’s Rick Lombardo has brilliantly done with his version of Molière’s SCAPIN (call 617-332-1646 for tickets, now --- read these scribbles, later). Mr. Lombardo is faithful to Molière’s plotline (which the latter borrowed, in turn, from Terence’s PHORMIO) --- a quick-thinking trickster helps two young men win their true loves and thwarts the wedding plans of their curmudgeonly fathers --- and sets his spin in imaginary, modern-day Naples (“Texas!”); Molière’s commedia dell’arte now becomes topical stand-up comedy with Haddon Kime’s clever musical pastiches thrown in for good measure; there are so many hilarious moments that were I to list them I would soon run out of fingers and toes --- and ruin your own enjoyment (617-332-1646). What is particularly breathtaking is the sense of improvisation that hangs over the non-stop shenanigans --- SCAPIN is as insubstantial as gelatin yet, like a well-chilled salad mould, is firm enough to support its assorted fruits and nuts (617-332-1646).
I once scribbled that I would like to see John Kuntz in the role of Tartuffe; Scapin, specifically tailored for him, is a good enough stop-gap. Mr. Kuntz continues to be hailed as a comic genius --- this time around, in the same breath as Molière, himself. He has a crack sense of timing and is agile enough for basic slapstick but I still find him a mean-spirited clown --- his stage smile (grimace, really) suggests he might enjoy drowning a sackful of kittens --- and thus I enjoy his comedy in small doses as in the ensembles SHEL’S SHORTS and SPIKED EGGNOG; I continue to hold up his Fluellen in HENRY V as a shield against all his screeching and food-throwing --- he was wise to jump onto the bandwagon of the newly-formed Actors’ Shakespeare Project where he opened their benefit performance with a hint of the Richard III that he could become (if his art must be dark, then let it be Shakespeare-dark). Mr. Kuntz breaks little ground as Scapin but Mr. Lombardo has countered by holding him in check and giving him his best ensemble to date so that he never once grated on me (though he did bop me on the noggin with a billy club in passing) --- I enjoyed his performance (617-332-1646), but the Bard is waiting.
Among the hand-picked, sparkling ensemble, I particularly enjoyed Bates Wilder as a sort of Frankenstein monster who has gone to mime class (617), Bret Carr as a fop in love (332) and Jennifer Lafleur as the ditzy object of his affections (1646); though she enters late in the action, Bonita J. Hamilton makes up for lost time with her powerful Act Two solo --- the evening’s one true serious moment. Janie E. Howland and Frances Nelson McSherry have designed the colorful jack-in-the-box set and Watteau-Texan costumes and the little New Rep stage makes a most loving ribbon around the entire package (617-332-1646).
SCAPIN is a unique, one-of-a-kind entertainment --- I cannot predict its legs with another cast or in another city; the only legs I’m concerned about now are yours --- can you run to the phone, fast enough? (617-332-1646)