Thoughts & Musings

2nd Story Theatre’s Le Dindon

“Le Dindon” will make you laugh out loud. It’s a guarantee.

by Kathie Raleigh
  • 27th March 201427/03/14
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French playwright Georges Feydeau once had people flocking to theaters to see his comedies. He was the master of the bedroom farce, and among his more than 60 works was “Le Dindon” (“The Dupe”).

No problem for 2nd Story Theatre that Feydeau hit his stride nearly a century and a quarter ago. Director Ed Shea has written his own translation of that 1892 play and now is directing a fabulous cast in a production that makes Feydeau a hit all over again.

While Shea maintains a sense of the play’s origins, he has knack for making 19th century foibles look hilarious in the 21st century. Actually, hilarious isn’t a good enough word to describe this 90-minute tsunami of gags, groans and boisterous belly laughs.

Typical of the genre, the play is all about sexual dalliances, angling for such dalliances or trying to get revenge for someone else’s dalliance. Mix in improbable coincidences and well-timed exits and entrances – so characters just miss encountering one another – and you’ve got the idea of what stands for a plot.

In this case, lovely Lucienne Vatelin is being pursued by the philandering Pontagnac, a would-be lover who follows her right into her home – where he discovers not only that she is married but that her spouse is an old friend, the lawyer Vatelin.

Of course, Lucienne may or may not already have a lover in Redillon, who is so smitten he calls his current mistress Lucienne even though her name is Colette. Colette really doesn’t care, she has so many lovers herself.

Meanwhile, Vatelin, mild-mannered though he is, is having his own romantic tribulations with a brassy Southern belle, Anabelle, with whom he had a fling during a business trip to New York. Now she’s in France, looking for more amour and willing to use blackmail to get it.

Feydeau’s characters are hysterical, but Shea ramps up the comedy with meticulous timing and rapid-fire dialogue. Sometimes the joke is set up, so you see it coming; other times, it just happens. Either way, it’s going to make you laugh.

Everyone in the cast has a moment in the spotlight, but the major roles played by the unflaggingly funny Ashely Hunter Kenner as Lucienne, the smooth Ara Boghigian as the rakish Pontagnac, and quirky Jeff Church as Redillon.

A host of well-played supporting characters adds to the manic mix, including an officious hotel clerk, a clueless maid, a protective butler, and an older couple who inadvertently get entangled in a mix-up of hotel rooms; you won’t forget Jim Sullivan’s bewildered Pinchard, the husband.

The show, moreover, looks gorgeous, with lots of color and light. 2nd Story’s usually open stage is fitted with a proscenium, footlights and a golden curtain, reflecting the era of Feydeau’s popularity. Props suggest parlors and bedrooms, but the backdrops are oversized, and well executed, copies of paintings by Renoir, Pissaro and Manet. Ron Cesario’s costumes are equally artistic: luscious ensembles for the women and perfectly tailored menswear.

A couple outside-of-the-box details add to the fun: vocalists perform appropriate songs, like “My Foolish Heart,” during scene changes, and the perfunctory admonition to note the exits and turn off cell phones is set to music. The animated vocalist is Patrick Saunders, recruited from a much darker role in “A Bright New Boise,” playing downstairs; Tom Roberts, a frequent 2nd Story actor, wrote the lyrics.

This production is pure entertainment, and we’re not duping anyone with the promise that “Le Dindon” will make you laugh out loud. It’s a guarantee.

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