When you see a play titled Figaro, the mind leaps to the opera The Marriage of Figaro. Which leads to the logical question “Why would I want to see the story about the comic rogue Figaro without Mozart’s music?”
Put logic aside –it seems Mozart’s librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte (who adapted the story from a story by Pierre Beaumarchais) has great comedy sensibilities. Though perhaps not a farce of the stature of Moliere, this is a work that could play any dinner theater in the country.
Actually, let’s give the credit for that to contemporary playwright Charles Morey who adapted the opera’s story. He’s kept the period style but adds flavor with fun theatrical touches and some modern colloquialisms. All these elements work to make Figaro appealing to present day audiences.
Morey captures the farcical nature of the story that has Figaro manipulating his employer Count Almaviva in order to gain the right to marry his love, Suzanne. The complicated path to success happens because of mistaken identities, sexual intrigues, doors slamming, escapes through open windows and deceptions that include cross-dressing, counterfeit letters and bogus legal arguments.
Indeed, the work has almost too many plot twists to the point that the ending seems about 10-15 minutes too long, even though the show runs only about two hours.
The play works best when Figaro is on stage. Kris Anderson is a delightfully kinetic actor who brings energy and intensity to the role. Though he is delightfully comic while manipulating others, he is also worth paying to attention to while he is just watching others. One of Anderson’s many talents is being totally in the moment no matter what he doing on stage – even if he is doing nothing – and even Figaro thinking is fun to watch. His comic timing is superb and he creates a true rascal.
The problem with such a performance is when Anderson is not on stage the action slows. His interaction with Sarah Wasserbach as Suzanne is charming. It becomes clear that the fast-talking Figaro is a clever manipulator, but Suzanne is smarter and shrewder. They make a terrific team.
However, when in scenes where Wasserbach plays against The Count and Countess the mood and pace slackens. Though the comic conceits are still funny the comedy becomes more deliberate and even plodding.
Thankfully, playwright Morey develops three characters who – like Shakespeare’s clowns – appear for little purpose other than to generate laughs. Because they are all played by Jack Fallon (who pushes to the limit the theory that you can’t be too broad in farce) the laughter is as sincere as it is necessary.
A nine person cast in community theater is rather large. And with large casts the level of quality varies. However, though the play has weak spots, fortunately the actors are able to be convincing with comic types even if they don’t always create comic characters.
The set, designed by Anna Yates, is not up to Curtain Calls recent high standards. Though the play has enough exits and entrances that are used well, the sides are of a billowing material that is distracting. In the second act, the director has actors moving them to enter or leave, destroying theatrical illusions in the process.
That director, Barbara Richards, understands the need for a quick, almost frenzied pace for a farce and when she gets it right the play is a delight. When she doesn’t, Figaro has enough entertainment value to offer a pleasant theatrical diversion.
Figaro plays at Curtain Call Theatre, 210 Old Loudon Rd., in Latham, through March 22. Performances run Thursday-Sunday. Tickets can be had by calling 877-7529.
Bob Goepfert is the arts editor for the Troy Record.
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