The LaSalle Players' second show this year is Moliere's "Lovers' Quarrels" and is a fast paced farce in the style of Shakespearean comedy. The show was written in 1656 and was Moliere's second full-length play in verse, and it is a complex comedy animated by deception and misunderstanding. A young woman, Ascagne has worn masculine disguise since childhood, for the sake of an inheritance that would otherwise go to the household of young Valere.(Her friend Frosine describes it in the classroom by drawing on a blackboard.) Ascagne loves Valere, who is a suitor of her sister Lucille, and cleverly manages to marry him in a midnight ceremony. Valere believes that his veiled and unseen bride is Lucille. Valere's manservant Mascarille is similarly deceived and, under pressure, conveys his misinformation to Eraste, a young man who jealously loves Lucille and is loved in turn by her. The ensuing quarrel between Eraste and Lucille lasts until the fourth act, and is paralleled by the quarreling and reconciliation of Gros-Rene (the actor usually wears padding to make himself fat) who is Eraste's valet and Marinette who is Lucille's maid. George Saintsbury, a British historian and critic who wrote for the Saturday Review, wrote of "Lovers' Quarrels" that "Nothing so good had been seen on the French stage as the quarrels and reconciliations of master, mistress, valet, and soubrette." It goes without saying that the final act sees Ascagne's true sex revealed and that Valere's response to that is "love and wonder.'' Three of the actors must portray 2 fathers and a teacher in this show and do so wonderfully. LaSalle Academy in association with Brown/Trinity Consortium have been offering 10 master classes throughout this school year with members of the resident professional company. In addition to the collaboration with the resident company, Jesse Geiger, a third year MFA candidate at the Brown/Trinity Consortium is guest directing this show with three guest designers in set, costume and sound design. Jesse who hails from Chicago, sets the show in contemporary time in a high school with his talented high school cast of 11 students ranging from freshman to senior playing these eleven roles very successfully. He presents the show in an hour and fifteen minutes with the students and crew bringing on the props to change the scene and locale. The production is easily understandable to the audience and students with each cast member symbolizing a different type of student found now and in the past. Jesse's direction is excellent and the manipulations of the characters and their love and deception of each other is cleverly portrayed, making an old chestnut of a play fresh and new again for modern day audiences.
The show starts off with the announcements over the loudspeaker and follows the students from homeroom, to classroom, to lunch, to gym class with the center doors being used for the home of Albert one of the father's. Jesse gives the students enough clever shtick to use while playing these broad characters as they do pratfalls, swordplay and hurl lovers gifts back to their suitors. The use of imitating the vocal speaking of male by female and vice versa is brilliantly done. Jesse is aided in his task by the three guest artists. The set design of Patrick Lynch consists of two sets of lockers on either side of the stage with swinging doors in the middle and a lime green and white checkerboard stage platform which is like a chessboard with the characters manipulations and mood swings as well as partner changes. A clever added touch is the stringing up of some paper airplanes at increasing larger sizes above the playing area which almost everyone made when they were in school. The breathtaking, gorgeous 17th century costumes are by David Costa-Cabral with the girls gowns standing out with their bright colors. Another comic touch is that the boys wear sneakers and white socks with the period costumes. The sound design is by Freida Abtan who is a Canadian multi-disciplinary artist and composer currently working on her doctorate at Brown University. The authentic school sounds are so natural especially the basketball sounds in the gym scene. The lighting design is by Mrs. Elissa Pensa Cerros with tech director Mr. Craig Schutz and vocal coach, Mr. Thom Jones. The show runs smoothly with the stage managing skills of Justin Reis.
The talented high school cast is lead by pretty blond haired Ailey Wilder playing the woman disguised as a man part of Ascagne. She lowers her voice when speaking to others as the male but when she describes her love for Valere to Frosine, she uses the female sounding voice. Ailey's entrance onstage has her walking in like a man but giving Dan Tracy who plays Valere a loving glance. Her revelation scene at the end is handled beautifully with the lovers reuniting and kissing profoundly. Dark haired senior student Daniel Tracy who played Trevor Greydon in Millie in December, plays Valere, the school Romeo wonderfully. He struts into the first scene with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth and his argument scenes with his valet and his rival are well done especially the sword play. Pretty blond haired junior Gabrielle Whitney plays Marinette, Lucille's maid who delivers a love note to Eraste, a hot headed suitor who is jealous of Valere's popularity. (Marinette is a play on marionette with the character controlling other's destinies) Gabi is feisty in her scenes with her romantic interest Gros-Rene who is well played by Matthew Smith, a freshman who wears a pad under his costume to make him look fat. (Their funniest scene is when they give back their gifts to each other including a paper clip and a stale piece of cheese.) Beautiful brunette Allison Russo plays the popular girl, Lucille who has two boys chasing after her, doing a topnotch job while doing so and giving the arguments back to each of them wonderfully. She also has a gorgeous soprano singing voice which I heard her use as Miss Dorothy in Millie. John Smith, a senior, is dynamic as Eraste. He delivers the goods whether he rages on after thinking Lucille has married Valere or threatening Mascarille with his sword. Mascarille, a play on the word masquerade, is wonderfully played by sophomore Matthew Kilduff who quakes in his boots as the cowardly, nerd of the show who drops his books on his first entrance. He gets to utter some funny lines including "Love is an ass". When he is threatened by Valere, he runs to Lucille's father, Albert to explain things with everything being misconstrued by Lucille and him. Frosine is beautifully played by statuesque brunette, Molly Allen who is a senior who will be going to St. Mary's College in California in the fall to study theatre. Her revelation to Ascagne of her really being Lucille's sister after thinking she isn't, is one of her funniest moments. The three students who play the older roles do excellent work, too. Freshman Colin Whitney is hilarious as Albert who makes Ascagne pretend to be a boy to steal an inheritance from Valere. He walks with a cane, wears knickers with no socks. Senior Daniel Squizzero as Polidore enjoys pulling the wool over his son Valere's eyes during the final revelation scene and is a hoot as he and Colin chase each other to explain the marriage of Lucille to Valere isn't true. Last but not least is senior Vincent Lee as the teacher who spouts Latin phrases to an exasperated Albert in one of the humorous scenes. Vincent played Bun Foo and Colin played Ching Ho in Millie and are old hands at making the audience laugh. Another outstanding feature is that the students perform this show without needing microphones. So for a look back at how a seventeenth century play can given a fresh outlook to make it more easily accessible to 21st century audiences, be sure to catch Moliere's "Lovers' Quarrels" before time runs out.