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Regional Reviews by Fred Sokol

The Ladies Man

Also see Fred's review of Rabbit Hole

The Ladies Man
Julie Webster, Elizabeth Aspenlieder and John Croy
The Ladies Man, continuing at Shakespeare & Company's Founders' Theatre in Lenox, Massachusetts through August 31st, is a laugh riot—for the final two thirds of the performance. From the moment Elizabeth Aspenlieder appears as Suzanne Aubin, well into the first act, the unadulterated farce (translated from Georges Feydeau's Tailleur pour Dames by Charles Morey) proceeds at a madcap, sometimes dizzying, wondrous pace.

The Feydeau farce is about lust and the bedroom—or another room. In this case, a married man, Dr. Hercule Molineaux (Jonathan Croy) is a decent enough sort. His wife, Yvonne (Julie Webster), isn't all that savvy but manages to "scare" her husband into spending the evening on a park bench. Her mother, Madame Aigreville (splendid Annette Miller), a comic tyrant, is wickedly witty. The lisping Bassinet, played by Michael F. Toomey, isn't all that bright but is perfectly willing when he's foisted into a role as a physician.

Suzanne unabashedly and literally jumps Molineaux time and again. Her husband, Gustav (Walton Wilson), is: large, stiff, jealous, ludicrous and cartoonish—Mack Sennett would love him. If Wilson, a Prussian, is wooden, the pliable Aspenlieder is his opposite. Gymnastic and uninhibited, she loves her caricature.

Suzanne demands that Molineaux satisfy her needs and desires but the doctor has problems with performance. Actually, he was hoping she might help rectify his own situation. No one watching believes this will work out favorably. In fact, Eric Bentley, writing about farce more than forty years ago, talks about the audience, ensconced in seats, watching actors who, in the case of The Ladies Man, have gone wild.

Carl Sprague's adventuresome set, including a series of doors toward the rear of the stage, quite perfectly assists the performers. Director Kevin G. Coleman makes the most of the devices. His actors demonstrate delectable timing during opening and closing sequences. The middle unit ushers in Madame Aigreville, whose nickname, Medusa, says it all.

Aspenlieder's Suzanne Aubin, carries the day—as this actor did last summer when she portrayed Natasha is Rough Crossing. Aspenlieder seems to absolutely relish the spotlight as the vile trollop. She flies into the fray, equipped with sneers, bounce, acrobatic movement and hellish intent.

The excellent Croy, playing Molineaux (who could have a panic attack at any moment), attempts to keep it and himself together throughout. Even while he doesn't know quite what to do and cannot extricate himself, he tries. And theatergoers, after all, remain innocent. We are not involved in sexual shenanigans and we're not cheating. So—we laugh. The Ladies Man, oftentimes over the top with slapstick antics, provides ample opportunity for catharsis.

Unfortunately, the performance takes far too long to hum, buzz and, finally, spin with glee. Of course, exposition always takes time and actor Dave Demke (as Etienne) introduces the story. Somehow, Charles Morey's script, which adapts the Feydeau, needs to grab viewers earlier on. It is clear that eager Yvonne is disappointed that her husband has not sexually satisfied her. Each has a separate bedroom and she is suspicious of him. That said and understood, one sits and waits for quite some time until Aspenlieder, clad in 1890s Parisian-style wardrobe including bloomers (all furnished by costumer Govane Lohbauer), takes over. She and The Ladies Man, from that moment forward, amuse, divert, and entertain.

The Ladies Man continues at Shakespeare & Company's Founders' Theatre in Lenox, Massachusetts through August 31st. For ticket information, please call (413) 637-3353 or visit www.Shakespeare.org.


Photo: Kevin Sprague ©2008


Also see the current theatre schedule for Connecticut & Beyond

- Fred Sokol



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