It’s comedies tonight at two area theaters.
By Kay Kipling
Two comedies, very different in style and tone, but alike in how they reflect the state of the world they were written in, are in the theater lineup this week.
First is Henri Becque’s The Parisian Woman, an FSU/Asolo Conservatory production (www.asolo.org) written in the 1880s with a fine understanding of the French society of the time. Here the main characters are the flirtatious Clotilde (Jennifer Ryan Peery Logue), her insistent (and jealous) lover, Lafont (Matt Brown), and the husband (Marcus Denard Johnson) she may be duping, but to whom she still owes her duty, if not her fidelity.
At the outset The Parisian Woman is all fun and games, as Clotilde plays both men like a master violinist. They’re little boys in the hands of a woman, and it seems that she can have her cake and eat it, too. But things turn more complicated when the matter of her husband’s career comes up. If she plays her cards right with a certain influential but perhaps not altogether reputable society lady, she can help him to advance, but at what personal price? Clever though she is, even Clotilde may have trouble with her delicate juggling act.
Jennifer Ryan Peery Logue is well in control as Clotilde, and some of the sharpest scenes are between her and Lafont, played to rich comic effect by Brown. Director Andrei Malaev-Babel certainly moves the action along quickly, and for the most part the Conservatory students handle the roles of older, sophisticated Parisians with skill. It’s no reflection on them to say, however, that even though the play whisks along for its duration (there’s no intermission), it doesn’t leave you wanting more. We’re satisfied to see the resolution arrive in just 75 minutes.
Meanwhile, down at Venice Little Theatre’s Stage II (www.venicestage.com), another play takes aim at the way we live today. David Mamet’s Romance (the title has nothing to do with the action of the play) is set in a New York City courtroom where any semblance of order soon goes out the window. A defendant (Neil Kasanofsky) is on trial for something (we’re not sure just what), but his attorney (Matt Erickson) and his opposite number, the prosecutor (Daniel Greene, stepping in at the last minute for an injured actor), are more preoccupied with their own issues than with his. And the judge (Dan Higgs) is certainly no help; he progresses rapidly from befuddlement to out-and-out psychosis, rambling about everything from Shakespeare to King Solomon as his bailiff (William Czarniak) tries to rein him in.
While farce may not be Mamet’s usual métier, it works just fine to deliver his message, which is that we all revert to age-old prejudices under pressure and that it’s OK to make fun of anyone these days—Jews, Christians, straights, gays—except for those in the Muslim-Arab world. And, of course, it’s all done using Mamet’s gift for strong language. (Fair warning!) The actors sometimes have trouble keeping up the pace required for the playwright’s overlapping dialogue, but Higgs as the judge is worth the price of admission alone.
Both plays run through Nov. 19. For tickets to The Parisian Woman, call 351-8000; for Romance, 488-1115.