Theatre Mirror Reviews - "School for Wives"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2010 by Tony Annicone

"School for Wives"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The second show of 2nd Story Theatre's season is Moliere's "School for Wives". "School for Wives" is a theatrical comedy of errors and self delusion written by the seventeenth century French playwright, Moliere and revolves around an insecure man who wishes to show the world how to avoid the fate of cuckoldry by marrying the perfect bride. Arnolphe is a 52 year old man who has groomed the young Agnes since the age of 4. He supports Agnes living in a convent until the age of 17, when he removes her and moves her to one of his homes. Arnolphe wants to bring her up in a manner that she will be too innocent of being unfaithful to him. In order to do this, he forbids the nuns who are instructing her from teaching her anything that might lead her astray. His friend, a monsignor, Chrysalde warns Arnolphe of his folly at such a task. After the girl moves into his house, Horace arrives on the scene ahead of his father and Arnolphe's friend, Oronte, and proceeds to fall in love with Agnes and she with him. Horace unwittingly confides all his activities with Agnes to Arnolphe. Arnolphe then schemes in order to out-maneuver Horace and ensure that Agnes will marry him. Through many twists and turns of the story with misunderstandings, mistaken identities the conclusion is reached. Richard Wilbur's translation perfectly captures the joyous theatricality of Moliere's comedies as fresh today as when they were first written: the appeal of the battle of wits, rhyming verse, mercurial shifts from sacred to profane, soaring poetry and base humor. Co-directors Ed Shea and Pat Hegnauer do a brilliant job with their hard working cast, with Ed doing double duty as Arnolphe. He takes charge of the stage, bringing his talent and the talent of his 9 fellow performers to new heights. The show is rewarded with a thunderous standing ovation at curtain call.

The satire directed by Pat and Ed has wonderful pacing and is full of witticisms and shtick that keep the audience entertained all night long. The gorgeous 1920's costumes are by Alison Walker Carrier. The revolving door front door, the upstairs balcony with windows and other doorway that turns inside out( to take the characters in and out of the house with ease) are designed by Trevor Eliot. Operations manager Max Ponticelli and his hard working crew of Liz Hallenback, Evan Kinnane and Brian Hebert keep the set changes running smoothly all night long. The last Moliere show at 2nd Story, "The Misanthrope" in 2006 was set in the Civil War with a Gone with the Wind theme to it. This time the show is set in the 1920's and has some silent movie moments in it that are hilarious with a strobe light making it look like a black and white movie. Ed is dressed like Charlie Chaplin and is onstage almost the whole two hour show. Ed delivers a stunning, tour-de-force performance in this show. Moliere gives the protagonist in his shows, one dominating obsessive character trait. Ed delivers his multitude of lines and numerous monologues splendidly while interacting with the audience, including them in the witticisms of the character. His interactions with the other characters is topnotch, too. The physical humor is outstanding in this farce.

Sexy raven haired Gabby Sherba plays Agnes. She is fabulous in this role capturing the innocence of the convent trained girl and is hilarious during the twists and turns of the storyline. Agnes' naivete is what perplexes Arnolphe and when she finally stands up to his bullying the audience gasps and applauds her. Gabby also shows off her beautiful singing voice in this role. She plays this docile creature who finally comes into her own at last where Agnes resents being simple minded. Tall blond and handsome Jeff Church plays Horace. He is marvelous as the zealous lover of this gorgeous girl. Jeff has many comic lines and makes them all count including calling Arnolphe, la douche at one point. He has many physical comic moments where he is beaten up and has to do a flip as he is pulled from a ladder. Jeff proves he is adept at comedy in this show having previously played the villain in "The Late Christopher Bean" during the summer at 2nd Story. The wild and crazy servants are well played by Paula Faber and Tom Roberts. They constantly bicker with each other and have some outstanding comic moments where they fight to answer the door, play dummies as they gaze out the windows at Arnolphe and at one point beat the crap out of him while he pretends to be Horace. Rendueles Villalba, Walter Cotter and Eric Behr play three friends of Arnolphe's who add to the merriment of the show while Bill Oakes is the notary. A secret is discovered later in the show that resolves the situation for the audience. Not wanting to spoil the fun of the show, I can't go into anymore detail of it. So for a hilarious evening of comedy, be sure to catch "The School for Wives" at 2nd Story Theatre.

"The School for Wives" (12 November - 12 December)
2ND STORY THEATRE
@ 28 Market Street, WARREN RI
1(401)247-4200

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