Thoughts & Musings

Fast & furious:
2nd Story presents bawdy and bodacious French farce

Shea and his crew at 2nd Story have practically turned the art of performing farce into a cottage industry in Warren where the sound of the now silent looms has been replaced by the roar of untethered laughter.

by Dave Christner, Newport Mercury
  • 4th October 20164/10/16
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A little white lie can go a long way in a French farce, and French playwright Georges Feydeau is the acknowledged master of wringing every laugh out of a lie regardless of its size or hue.

In 2nd Story Theatre’s production of “The Ladies Man,” now playing in Warren, Ed Shea’s cast and crew deliver playwright Charles Morey’s adaptation of Feydeau’s perfectly implausible French farce on a silver platter with every original laugh intact and more than a few new ones added by Morey. With Shea himself in the lead role as the lying, even if not conniving, dog, Dr. Hercule Molineaux, the show provides nearly two hours of continuous belly laughs through the perfect execution of some highbrow but mostly low comedy. On the high road, there is wordplay and boundless banter; on the low road, physical comedy and slamming doors abound.

Jennifer Michaels adds a touch of naughty to her naiveté in her portrayal of Molineaux’s young wife, Yvonne, who suspects Hercule of having a lover. Where Yvonne is innocent, her mother is anything but. Overplayed with measured proficiency, Payton St. James turns the overbearing Madame Aigreville into the mother-in-law from hell; but she is not the end of Molineaux’s woman problems.

One of Dr. Molineaux’s patients, the luscious and lascivious Suzanne Aubin, played seductively by Tanya Anderson, has more than her eyes on her personal physician, much to the vexation of her volatile husband, Gustavo. Nobody does a hot-blooded Spaniard in a French farce better than Luis Astudillo, and as Gustavo Aubin, Astudillo is extraordinary. Whether brandishing his sword or flaunting his manhood through verbal threats of violence, he is the essence of alpha-male arrogance, who, in this case, is putty in the hands of anybody with even a semblance of a brain. But at the same time, Astudillo makes Gustavo into a truly likeable character.

Three other marvelous players round out the characters in Morey’s adaptation: Nicholas Thibeault gives Etienne, Molineaux’s browbeater manservant, a bit of an attitude; Vanessa Blanchette as Marie, the household maid, brings a bit of serendipity to the role, and Charles Lafond Bassinet, a Molineaux patient who suffers more from the slings and arrows tossed by other characters than misfortune, is a delight from the beginning to the improbable end.

Costume designer Ron Cesario has the players dressed and coiffured in glorious period apparel that includes a black-tie ensemble for Molineaux, flowing silk gowns for the ladies, simple uniforms for the servants, and a blazing red, close-fitting, high-collared tunic for the militant Gustavo Aubin.

The play is performed in the round with the stage alternately serving as Molineaux’s home and the shop of a French dressmaker. The whole audience is included in the set as the back walls are constructed behind the audience; five doors, through which the players enter and exit more times than you could probably count on an abacus, are situated in the set so as to give the audience the feeling of being part of the action. And they are. Director Shea’s pacing of the show is fast and furious, and if you miss a word you needn’t worry because it will be followed by a deed that accentuates the preceding word or words.

2nd Story’s bawdy and bodacious production of “The Ladies Man” is a delicious diversion from election year politics; it provides a soothing balm in the eye of a partisan political storm. Shea and his crew at 2nd Story have practically turned the art of performing farce into a cottage industry in Warren where the sound of the now silent looms has been replaced by the roar of untethered laughter. Don’t miss out on getting your share!

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