Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review of A Wrinkle in Time
Voltaire's original satiric novel, published in 1759, eviscerates the philosophy of Optimism, which held that everything that happens has a positive purposeeven naturally occurring catastrophes such as the earthquake that destroyed Lisbon, Portugal, four years before Voltaire published his book. The naïve title character (Geoff Packard) stumbles through one disaster after another in many parts of the world before he can look beyond the platitudes of his teacher, Dr. Pangloss (Larry Yando), and move forward.
Zimmerman has ingeniously staged this sprawling epic to fit comfortably on the (admittedly large) stage of Sidney Harman Hall. Miniature ships on poles traverse horizontal "waves" of painted scenery; pieces of set dressing appear through the paneled walls of Daniel Ostling's scenic design; and a hand-held pinwheel represents a windmill to set the stage for a scene in the Netherlands.
The large cast and capable orchestra, conducted by Doug Peck, are most in their element when they get to perform Bernstein's music. The production runs three hours; the dialogue scenes sometimes get a little slow, packed as they are with both exposition and philosophical debate, but they never become too ponderous. (Zimmerman also never works too hard to emphasize the contemporary parallels with the narrative, although she does include a reference to the "great intelligent design" that powers the world.)
Packard has a golden tenor voice and a wide-open face that conveys the shocks Candide undergoes as he bounces from war to religious persecution and from corrupt aristocratic courts to the truly benevolent mythical land of El Dorado. Lauren Molina, as his beloved Cunegonde, gives a delightfully giddy performance of the famous aria "Glitter and Be Gay" and brings gravity to the finale, "Make Our Garden Grow." Hollis Resnik is a charmer as the tricky Old Lady who befriends Cunegonde and has her own hair-raising back story. Other standouts are Erik Lochtefeld as Cunegonde's impossibly vain brother, Tom Aulino as the gloomy scholar Martin, and Rebecca Finnegan in several roles.
Shakespeare Theatre Company