Tried to do some blogging for the first time in a month, and WordPress decides that’s the moment it gets hungry and needs to eat a post, so this one is a little later than I’d planned (which was plenty late already). In their defense, I HAVE been starving the old Visitorium of posts lately, it must be admitted. What can I say, Clown Camp eats up some time and energy (and yes, there may be a post coming about that, one of these days…still getting my typing legs under me, so bear with me).
But, I’m back in Ottawa and eager to remind myself why Theatre is the bestest thing ever, so off I went on a jam-packed opening night to the first show of the Gladstone Theatre’s ever-expanding new season. Kicking it off was THE SCHOOL FOR WIVES, a raunchy comedy from that scamp Moliere in a new rhyming translation from David Whiteley, who did similar service for CYRANO with Plosive productions a ways back. This time Plosive and Seven Thirty teamed up to bring us the tale, with John P.Kelly solidly at the helm. A good pedigree already, and the cast gave me even more to look forward to.
The story follows wealthy schmuck Arnolphe (Andy Massingham), a man obsessed with never being made a fool of by any woman. To that end, he has been secretly hiding away and raising the beautiful Agnes (Tess McManus), grooming her to be his ideal, ignorant child-bride when the time is right. With the help, such as it is, of his grumbling servants (David Benedict Brown and Catriona Leger, stealing scenes one after the other), Arnolphe is all set to put his less-than-feminist plan into action, ignoring the words of warning from his friend Chrysalde (David Whiteley). Enter the dashing Horace (Drew Moore), a lusty young fellow with long wavy locks, who somehow manages to slip by Arnolphe’s defenses and fall head over heels with Agnes. A battle of wits ensues, though that may be giving Arnolphe more credit than he’s due, as he goes to increasingly greater lengths to protect his dimwitted prize at all cost. Of course, he never seems to reckon on his ‘ignorant’ Agnes having a few opinions of her own on the subject.
Armed with a rockin’ good cast and Whiteley’s fast-paced and fun translation, John P.Kelly flexes his farce muscles big time for this production and turns out probably the funnest and funniest show the Gladstone could have hoped for to open up the season. Andy Massingham is in his element as the omnipresent Arnolphe (or ‘Monsieur la Douche’ as he wonderfully renames himself), playing with words, actors and audience alike…and not backing down from the inevitable darker turn in the latter half of the play, making some of previously goofy scenes with co-star McManus downright offputting. Tess’ Agnes is terrific as well, balancing dim and loopy with proud and strong , and making it look easy. Drew Moore as the earnest Horace is great fun to watch, especially his banter with Arnolphe (who does an impression of Horace in the play that is just brilliant). And of course, Dave Brown and Catriona Leger are too much damn fun as the randy servant pair…it’s worth the ticket for their hijinks alone.
So, yeah…that was a lot of fun! Whiteley done good with his updated but faithful translation, and it serves the Gladstone gang well in a crowd-pleasing jamboree of a show that gets the season started right, with a wink and a nod. Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid (and Winston)