Regional Reviews: San Francisco
An Enchanting Production of Beaumarchais's The Marriage of Figaro
Center REPertory Company opens its 40th season with Ranjit Bolt's translation of Beaumarchais's masterpiece The Marriage of Figaro. This is the playwright's sequel to his earlier The Barber of Seville. French dramatist Pierre-Augustine Caron de Beaumarchais wrote this revolutionary comedy in 1784 and the play foreshadowed the class conflicts of the French revolution. The comedy is a rollicking satirical humor that skewers aristocrats, lawyers, doctrinaires and prudes.
The Marriage of Figaro was banned during the reign of Louis XVI because he was afraid the subversive fun might cause somebody with bright ideas about the aristocracy to start a revolution by the commoners. It is said that Marie Antoinette loved the play and it finally was presented to the King on April 27, 1784. Later the farce served as a libretto for Mozart's famous opera Le nozze di Figaro.
Beaumarchais's clever dialogue and complex plots are brilliant, satirizing the privileges and eccentricities of the upper class. Figaro (Craig W. Marker) is Count Almaviva's (Andrew Hurteau) out of control manservant, and Suzanne (Jessa Brie Berkner) is maid to the Count's wife Almaviva (Cassie Beck). Figaro and Suzanne are about to be married but the Count states his feudal right to bed the virginal Suzanne. A plan proceeds to outwit the Count and a yummy revenge plays out as the table is turned.
Craig W. Marker is hilarious as Figaro. He is not the Count's cunning opponent but his circuitous double. He is particularly outstanding in the famous monologue toward the end of the piece. Andrew Hurteau plays the Count like an autocratic nincompoop who staggers over the twist in the plot behind everyone else. He gives a great athletic performance along with a tour de force of comic acting.
Jessa Brie Berkner is wonderful as Suzanne, who is actually smarter than the two combatant male characters. She has good "street smarts" as to what is going on in this fast paced comedy. Cassie Beck gives a zestful performance as the Countess. She is sensuous in manner as she has an eye for Cherubin, played delightfully by Lizzie Calogero. Kate Del Castillo is exuberant as the boy crazy Franchette. Pat Parker and Richard James give side-splitting performances as Marceline and Bartholo. Their make-up and hairdos are absolutely wild (thanks to B. Modern and Noah Marin). Kerri Shawn makes a mirthful appearance as Judge Brid'Oison. Joseph O'Malley and Skip Emerson are effective in the small roles of Pedrille and Antonio. Ensemble members Lila Butler, Drea Bernadri, Jeanette Penley, Erika Salazar and Mayssa Wanlass are dressed like characters from an Austin Powers movie.
The wild musical susceptibility as choreographed by Cassie Beck is unrestrained. Sound designer Jeff Mockus uses some very familiar tunes as the ensemble moves around to keep the action going. The overture is a "juke box" arrangement of the overture to Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro. Scenic designer Kate Boyd and lighting designer Christopher Studley provide the actors plenty of space to give the audience a stylish comedy.
Director Michael Butler plays the comedy strictly for laughs. The language is contemporary and the costumes are wonderful. Everything in this French farce jells perfectly.
The Marriage of Figaro played through October 7th at the Dean Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek.
Center REPertory Company's next production will be Mitch Albom and Jeffrey Hatcher's inspirational Tuesdays with Morrie October 19 through November 18.