Sunday, November 27, 2005
"IT'S ALL BUGS BUNNY, ALL THE TIME"
"This farce is not interested in plot... as much as in hyperkinetic physical shtick and characters yelling at each other in bad Italian accents."
-Dan Neman, RTD 11/27/05
YEAH, BABY!! THAT'S IT!!! AND IT ROCKS!!!! HOLY CRAP-A WHAT FUN!!!
Scapino! is open!! Curtain went up the night after Thanksgiving, and the first weekend's audiences were eating it up. Opening night was a hoot, and it offered up a few priceless opportunities to comment on what was taking place in the audience. The first time a cellphone went off, Dave Clark (Sylvestro) and I said, very enthusiastically "Please, go ahead, answer it-- we'll wait!!" A few scenes later, I spotted a healthy young man in his mid-forties dead asleep about five rows back. I ran up to wake him & tell him he was missing the plotline.
His embarrassed wife shook him frantically & he quickly woke up-- then he promptly fell back to sleep.
The audience freakin' howled.
Later on in the evening I shouted to his wife, "Lady-- You must cook one hell of a turkey!!"
...an obvious reference to tryptophane... Guess yahaddabethere.
In act two, I spotted Dan Neman, the local Times-Dispatch movie critic, who rarely likes what he sees (Though to be fair, there's a lot of crap out there-- Too many Dukes of Hazzard's, not enough Ghandi's) yet I couldn't resist the urge to ask him in passing "Hey, Dan Neman-- How come you no like'a STAR WARS?" He chuckled & sort of turned red, and everyone shared a big laugh. I think he had a lot of fun, to tell the truth!!
It can be tricky ad-libbing when stuff happens-- you can lose the momentum of the show if something isn't worth taking the time to acknowledge, and you can also make people feel stupid, which is not cool. I feel very much that it is my responsibility to take care of the audience, and to make them feel like a part of the show. we hit some of the right beats at the right time this weekend and audiences loved it. I'm looking forward to living with this for the next eight weeks-- The director, cast, and designers are first-rate and the Stage Management and crew are a joy to see everyday.
Anyway, Mr. Neman reviewed the show that night, and the text of his review is posted below. Thanks for being such a good sport, Dan-o!!!
FRANTIC PLAY OFTEN UNEVEN
THE PERFORMANCE BY WICHMANN IS THE BEST THING ABOUT 'SCAPINO!'
By Daniel Neman
Times-Dispatch staff writer
Nov 27, 2005
Scott Wichmann is a force of nature.
Like the Tasmanian Devil in cartoons of old, he tears tornadically around the stage, bursting off quips, one-liners and ad libs. The ad libs, particularly those directed at members of the audience, are actually funnier than anything in the script of "Scapino!," the new show he stars in at Barksdale Theatre.
"Scapino!" is Molière's "Les Fourberies de Scapin" by way of England's Frank Dunlop and Jim Dale and an abundance of others since it first came to America three decades ago. It is a kitchen-sink kind of comedy, where anything and everything goes and where a tone merely over the top is disdained as too subtle.
The audience loved it, laughing robustly at all the jokes, which come with such relentless speed and fury it can be hard to distinguish which few ones are funny (the Bill Clinton joke) and which many are not (the pointless references to Jon Stewart and "Gone With the Wind").
With a Chico Marx accent ("You get-a your upper lip stiffened to meet-a your father") mirrored by most of the rest of the cast, Wichmann stars as the title character, a servant smarter than the wealthy men in town, present-day Naples. The crafty Scapino specializes in trickery and deceit, traits that come in handy when two young men come to him for help convincing their disapproving fathers to allow them to marry the women they love.
At least, that's what it seems to be about. A mountain of exposition at the beginning is impossible to climb, presumably intentionally, and it gets the show off on the wrong foot. But this farce is not interested in plot - another wrong foot - as much as in hyperkinetic physical shtick and characters yelling at each other in bad Italian accents.
The second act, it should be noted, makes more sense than the first and is consequently more enjoyable. But the encore, a singalong of a song that isn't funny the first six times it is performed, could easily be dropped.
Though the show belongs entirely to Wichmann, Ford Flannagan is also a quiet presence in pantomime, recalling Harpo Marx. David Clark appears briefly in Groucho glasses, completing a Marx Brothers trifecta.
Director Dawn A. Westbrook keeps the proceedings at a constant frantic pitch in an attempt to preserve the commedia dell'arte of the original source. But while Molière may be responsible for the silly plot, Westbrook and company look for inspiration more from Looney Tunes.
It's all Bugs Bunny, all the time. When two characters share a love scene, or rather a kissing scene, three others sit in the background watching and eating popcorn. To keep one of the fathers (Bridget Gethins in drag) from talking, Scapino repeatedly stuffs his mouth full of spaghetti.
How much one likes it depends on one's tolerance for slapstick.
Sara Grady's costumes are a must-see for fans of décolletage, while Kimberly H. Parkin's set recreates a seaside restaurant in Naples of the sort that caters to tourists. Like the set, Lynne M. Hartman's lighting is bright and sunny. She often turns up the house lights to bring the audience into the show on the far-too-frequent occasions that reference is made to the obvious fact that we are, in fact, watching a play.
Contact Daniel Neman at (804) 649-6408 or firstname.lastname@example.org