Moliere and Vaudeville come together in `Scapin'


March 13, 2000|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

When you combine the old comic master, Moliere, and the New Vaudeville clown, Bill Irwin, you're bound to tickle the funny bone, and the Vagabond Players' production of "Scapin" does just that.

Working with playwright Mark O'Donnell, Irwin adapted Moliere's commedia dell'arte-inspired 1671 farce as a vehicle for himself. And though Mark E. Campion proves somewhat stolid in Irwin's role of the scheming servant, Scapin, an Irwin-esque spirit of anarchy surfaces in the looser, more madcap manner of Tony Colavito as his fellow servant, Sylvestre.

The rather involved plot concerns two young men who have fallen in love with women not of their fathers' choosing. The prosperous but penny-pinching fathers quickly become the butt of pranks concocted by Scapin at the urging of the lovestruck sons.

The script is peppered with updated references as well as remarks spoken directly to and about the audience. Ann Mainolfi's swift direction emphasizes these broad characteristics, relying heavily on slapstick.

As one of the hoodwinked fathers, Vince Kimball looks amusingly dim and confused throughout most of the evening, and the four young lovers are ably played (three by current or former students of the Carver Center for Arts and Technology). In addition, Liz Dunbar supplies a humorous running musical commentary at a keyboard on the balcony of the two-level set.

But it's Colavito, with his heavily made-up eyebrows and equally exaggerated gestures and facial expressions, who steals the spotlight. His overly earnest attempts to look "thuggish" win high marks for low comedy in this fun and frothy Franco-American romp.

"Scapin" continues at the Vagabonds, 806 S. Broadway, through April 2. Show times are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. March 26, and 2 p.m. Sundays. (No performance this Friday.) Tickets are $12. Call 410-563-9135.

Scott performance

In conjunction with the exhibition "Joyce J. Scott: Kickin' It With the Old Masters" at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Scott will premiere her newest performance piece, "Virtual Reality," at the museum's Meyerhoff Auditorium at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

The Baltimore multimedia artist stormed the stage as one-half of the "Thunder Thigh Revue" at the Theatre Project in the 1980s and performed her solo show, "Generic Interference, Genetic Engineering" at the BMA in the early 1990s. In her new, hour-long show, she depicts characters ranging from Rodney Dangerous-in-the-Field, the first slave stand-up comedian, to an over-the-hill diva lamb based on Shari Lewis' Lamb Chop.

Tickets to "Virtual Reality" at the BMA, Art Museum Drive near Charles and 31st streets, are $15 ($13 for BMA members, seniors and students) and include admission to the exhibition at a later date. For more information call 410-396-7100.

Interior `Dolls' House'

The Community College of Baltimore County's production of Ibsen's "A Doll's House" is unusual in several respects. A first-time theatrical collaboration among all three CCBC campuses, the production uses a recent adaptation by Frank McGuiness, and the directorial approach is based on expressionism and surrealism instead of naturalism.

In his production notes, Carl Freundel, director and an assistant professor at CCBC-Essex, writes, "Expressionism centers on the idea of inner psychological realism, and it is in that world of inner truth that I wish to set the play."

One way he conveys this is by casting two performers as the protagonist, Nora. Hannah Castro plays the speaking Nora, while Natasha Tutavac, a dancer, interprets the character's inner thoughts. "The [students] are taking big risks here that they normally wouldn't take, and I think it's exciting that they can step out on this surrealistic edge and try to establish a world that they've really never seen before," Freundel says.

The play, which opened last week at the Dundalk campus, continues at the Essex campus, 7201 Rossville Blvd., at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. March 20; and at the Catonsville campus, 800 S. Rolling Road, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. March 23, and 10 a.m. March 24. Tickets are $6, ($3 for seniors, CCBC students and staff). For more information call 410-780- 6369.

`Guys and Dolls' tour

Arena Stage's splendid revival of "Guys and Dolls," starring Maurice Hines, was the biggest hit in the Washington theater's 49-year history, attracting 55,000 theatergoers in the course of its nine-week run. Now comes news that it is poised to reach an even larger audience with a touring version expected to hit the road in the 2001-2002 season.

When I saw the show in December, my only regret was that a Broadway transfer seemed unlikely since Arena's production followed relatively closely on the heels of the Tony Award-winning 1992 Broadway revival, starring Nathan Lane. A national tour is at least a step in the right direction.

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