Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Two Feydeau One-acts"

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entire contents copyright 1997 by Larry Stark


"Two Feydeau One-Acts"

Set Designed by Doug Cooper
Lighting Designed by Rich Shamel
Costumes Designed by Brigitte Tournier, Janice Dallas
Sound Designed by Bill Smith
Stage Manager Cathie Regan

"Suitable for Hanging"

Directed by Jackson Royall

The Husband(Plumard).........................Miles Cares
The Wife (Pepita).........................Francine Davis
The Maid (Mariette).........................Judth Broggi
The Lover (Taupinier)..........................Ian Bason
The Admirer (Lemercier).....................Harry Wagner
The Grocer (Dubrochard).....................Larry Devlin
The Policeman.....................Stephen Kenneth Thomas
The Other Policeman.......................Lenny Meglioli

"Do Not Walk Around in The Nude!"

Directed by Michael Jacobs

The Husband (Ventroux)......................P. J. Cassidy
The Wife (Clarisse)..........................Robin Rhodes
The Servant (Victor)........................Gary Giordano
The Mayor (Hochpaix)...........................Rich Hanna
The Journalist (Romain).....................Jack Wickwire


The essence of farce is misunderstandings; its logic is impeccable but doomed by shaky premises, and by the fluster that impels the pompous to faulty conclusions while trying to maintain appearances. At least this is true in the turn-of-the-century comedies of Georges Feydeau newly translated by Grace Butler and directors Jackson Royal and Michael Jacobs for their new Boulevard Theatre Company. They have chosen early and late plays, and apparently Feydeau learned a lot in the twenty-five years he worked between them.

"Suitable for Hanging", the earlier, is full of asides and monologs directly to the audience which modern audiences --- and actors --- find hard to assimilate. Miles Cares as the stodgy, obtuse husband breaks from an otherwise bland conversation with his wife to explain that he's suddenly twigged to her month-long affair (while reading "Othello"!) and will send a letter summoning the police at 4:30 that afternoon to take revenge. Francine Davis, the wife, is an actress --- if that's the term for the star of "Les Follies Erotiques" --- married only to give her child a father, and has been sending doting Dad to feed the baby while she indulges in her dalliances.

Ian Bason's lover is all smirks and smiles --- a dandy in service to the plot who pretty much does what he's told, until left alone with the admirer.

Harry Wagner stumbles in as a provincial teacher visiting Paris and impulsively trying a clever scheme to net him a night with an "actress". He of course misunderstands everything and everyone, and just happens to choose as a pseudonymn that of a homicidal maniac loose in town, so that everyone else misunderstands him.

When the police (who get no asides, and few lines to speak of) arrive it's not the chief but Larry Devlin as a deputized grocer who tries to sort everything out, while handing fliers on the week's specials even to the people he's trying to arrest.

Those asides may have seduced the cast into a "presentational" approach, letting them pause and contemplate the next mad dash into logical irrationality. They may simply have been under-rehearsed. Their problem through the run would be to make everything seem spontaneous rather than calculated.

Of course, these are types that were funny a century ago, and their preoccupations are a bit quaint around the edges. The two who are most comfortable on stage are Judith Broggi playing the maid in the first play, and Gary Giordano as the servant in the second. They are both obviously aware of everything going on, but responsible for none of it, so they merely nip in and do what they're told, thinking whatever they'd like. And their roles are small and straight-forward, which is rarely true of anyone else's.

"Don't Walk Around in The Nude" is a late flowering of Feydeau's genius, tightly compacted around a feather-headed wife obeying her stuffed-shirt hubby's orders even in the most inappropriate new situations. P. J. Cassidy's upright member of parliament tries to argue propriety with Robin Rhodes, who is much too busy doing things to think --- or to get dressed. The visits of Rich Hanna, as an opposition pol begging a favor, and then Jack Wickwire as a newspaperman after a "life-style" interview, give him chances to make political hay, except for the intrusions of his scatterbrain chatterbox wife. And that wasp discumbobulates everyone...

Opening night Cassidy was trying dilligently to argue his dogmatic precepts, and Rhodes never listened to a word. This is funny enough, though were she to argue back as though taking him seriously instead of irrelevantly, laughs would come from a deeper perception of what's going on.

No matter. These are funny plays as they stand. The sight of Francine Davis' calmly self-assured beauty panicked to think she'd been talking to a murderer, or of Ian Bason and Harry Wagner, thinking each other murderers, trying to one-up each other in gore, or of poor P.J.Cassidy's frustrations and astonishments when Robin Rhodes does or doesn't do exactly what he demands --- well, they've just got to be seen to be believed.

Love,
===Anon.
( a k a larry stark)

"Suitable for Hanging" (till 13 September )
"Do Not Walk Around in The Nude"
BOULEVARD THEATRE COMPANY
Concord Players, 51 Walden Street, CONCORD
1(617)494-2810

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