And thus the USF modern adaptation of the 351-year-old Moliere classic farce was born.
“Scapin,” pronounced (skuh-pan), is the equivalent of a master class in farce, comedic timing, improvisation, and the fine art of comedic madness, lead by Ivers in the title role, whose scampish persona and impish smile create a winning production full of non-stop hilarity.
Ivers is amply supported by Scapin’s sidekick Sylvester, played by Matt Zambrano.
Zambrano’s giant, infectious personality and impersonations, almost completely steal the show from Ivers, for whom the play was chosen. Zambrano possesses a charisma that is both warm and explosive on stage.
That is not to say that Ivers is not brilliant in the part of the crafty and mischievous servant Scapin, who outwits mean masters to help young lovers and his own pride as well, but the full cast is charming and pitch-perfect.
The true and essential grace of the production is just watching the actors’ craft make their well-rehearsed work look like spontaneous play.
And that nearly sums up the high-brow, screwball comedy and zany antics of “Scapin,” other than the numerous times the audience thinks, “I can’t believe they just did that,” and wondering if during rehearsal someone rubbed their chin philosophically and actually said “All right all right, evoking and or impersonating Robert DeNiro, Forest Gump, Gone with the Wind, Scarface, and a John Hughes film in one monologue is not enough, we need MORE!”
Of course that is assuming said audience has time to think anything at all while their stomach actually hurts from laughing.
Everything about this production is hilarious, clever, and laugh-out-loud funny. The overall plot, characters, sight gags, clever theatrics, use of props and costumes, and choreography, form a production that comes across as improvisation, belying the hours of rehearsal that fashioned the final product.
The famous French playwrite Moliere wrote the play in 1671 and filled it with timely cultural references that would have been at once familiar to his audience, and so does this newly adapted version fill the farce with irreverent humor that pulls not only from pop-culture but from regional influences as well.
To that effect, “Scapin” is also a love letter to locals and long-time festival patrons for whom the festival is like a favorite vacation site, familiar, but ever lovely and exciting. There are copious numbers of inside jokes only those familiar with the festival will truly appreciate such as the voice of festival founder Fred Adams correcting Ivers’ pronunciation of Latin theatre terms, booming from the theatre’s speakers like the Shakespeare god so many consider him to be.
There is also a sketch in the play where Ivers dresses in drag as a festival hostess volunteer that USF patrons will also particularly enjoy.
The play is truly a farce and comedy about theatre itself, and to “frame” this point, this production literally places a giant gilded frame, set off kilter, around the entire stage from which signs and banners occasionally drop reminding the audience that this play is not to be taken seriously.
The first character the audience becomes acquainted with is one-man-band Richard Carsey, known throughout the play as George, who sits at a keyboard adorned with set magic to appear as a giant, old-fashioned calliope. He begins the performance by playing a rousing medley of show tunes, and although his back is to the audience, as he produces the music and synthesized sound effects, he is a part of the ensemble.
Carsey remains on stage throughout the performance, and sound designer Barry G. Funderburg arranged and composed a compilation of music that meshes perfectly with the actors’ antics on stage and the snippets of familiar movie and Broadway themes really serve to ramp up the farce.
Roderick Peeples and Michael Santo are fantastic in their roles as the mean masters/controlling fathers. Their silly and consistent character choices are a perfect fit for the comedy.
“Scapin” never for a moment takes itself seriously, which is its most endearing quality. Everything about the production, from its cartoonish set to the clown-like costumes serves to remind the audience they are watching a comedy purposed to make them laugh and have unmitigated, uproarious fun – and they do.
“Scapin” is likely to be a sleeper hidden in the shadows of “Les Mis” and “Merry Wives” this season so good seats are available and locals receive half-price tickets bought same day as performance Monday through Thursday.
For more information about the Utah Shakespeare Festivals 51st season, visit www.bard.org.