2nd Story’s ‘The Ladies Man’ is farce at its finest
Life is too serious not to indulge in a fantastically irreverent and uproarious French farce once in a while.by Susan McDonald, Providence Journal
Life is too serious not to indulge in a fantastically irreverent and uproarious French farce once in a while. Luckily, 2nd Story Theatre understands and is dishing up a deliciously wicked production of Georges Feydeau’s “The Ladies Man.”
Evolving through a comedy of misinterpretations and fabrications, “The Ladies Man” tells the story of Dr. Hercule Molineaux who tells his much younger wife a small fib in an attempt to sidestep an embarrassing habit he’d developed of laughing when they became intimate.
“Giggling and amorous impulse are incompatible!” he tells his butler.
That lie spins out of control as his wife, Yvonne, summons her mother to her side. In the meantime, Molineaux must extricate himself from a potential dalliance with Suzanne, a patient whose husband is a jealous Spanish soldier.
Between the lies he tells, the spittle-coated involvement of one of Molineaux’s patients who has a severe lisp, and the language barrier between the French and the Spanish soldier, Gustavo, the storyline devolves into chaotic scenes in which characters are flying in and out of any of five doors on the stage, chasing each other amorously or angrily, and even hysterical moments of innuendo both spoken and pantomimed.
At 120 minutes with two intermissions, “The Ladies Man” zips by, because every moment the cast is on stage is active and funny, sometimes belly-achingly funny.
The second act is simply farce at its finest. One by one, through all different doors, the cast collects at a shuttered dress shop for different reasons. Molineaux is meeting Suzanne to tell her he cannot become involved with her. She is hoping for a tryst, even though her husband is sleeping in their carriage downstairs. Yvonne has come to catch her husband cheating. Her mother, Madame Aigreville, is looking for the dressmaker to have a riding habit made.
The choreography that director Ed Shea manages to execute in this act is nothing short of a miracle. The actors zip in and out of doors, chase each other around the furniture with expert precision and, in one particularly hilarious scene, entangle each other in a long tape measure. The attention to detail is impeccable and the result is sheer hysteria.
Shea plays Molineaux and his performance is beautifully comedic. He plays a wonderful beleaguered husband, distraught over letting his wife down, whimpering at the approach of his mother-in-law, and wonderfully frustrated with his lisping patient.
Payton St. James also turns in a delightful performance as Madame Aigreville, creating a presence that is pitiable and feared simultaneously.
But the scene stealer of the entire show is Luis Astudillo as Gustavo. He is brimming with bravado and delivers Feydeau’s lines, many of which include bastardizations of the English, expertly, always generating titters throughout the audience. Astudillo is able to utter lines such as “in fragrance delight” and mispronounce things like “quack” as “koo-ock” without batting an eye. His presence is mighty and his delivery perfect.
“The Ladies Man” is a strong farce and 2nd Story does a magnificent job of bringing its elements to the audience. What an amazing night of theater!