TAM's BARBER OF SEVILLE Reminds of Beaumarchais' Modernity
The Theater at Monmouth's new production of Pierre de Beaumarchais' delightful, provocative 18th century comedy, The Barber of Seville, (in translation by ElizaBeth Griffith) sparkles not only with saucy wit, but also with a striking modernity. The first play from the French master's Figaro trilogy is a comedy of manners about marriage with the underlying theme - embodied in the wily Figaro - of class conflict. And though the historical context is Enlightenment France, Rosine's quest for self-determination and love and Figaro's cheerfully impudent challenging of a hierarchical society ring with relevance.
Adapted and directed by Matthew Arbour, TAM's staging is breathlessly fast-paced, impeccably timed, and slyly funny. The play is peopled with a series of colorful characters whose foibles are subtly satirized in performances and production that is never exaggerated, but always clever. On the deep thrust stage, Michael Reidy creates the especially attractive décor - sun-drenchEd White marble flooring, graceful lattice panels, and a balcony bedecked with flowers - all of which can be easily transformed to suggest both interior and exterior of Bartolo's Seville house. Matthew Adelson contributes the equally lovely lighting design that has all the warmth and moonlight romance of Spain, while Megan Banfield's soundscape includes quotations from appropriate classical compositions, among them Mozart and Rossini. Kevin Barber provides the original, quasi-operatic music - one assumes - for the extended singing lesson scene. Christine McDowell's costumes are elegant, well cut, and stylish.
The cast demonstrates its deftness with the verbal and physical humor. Tim Kopacz is a commanding Almaviva who masters each of his disguises - student, soldier, music master - with lively humor, at the same time that he brings youthful ardor to the nobleman willing to hazard everything to win Rosine. Bill Van Horn makes a sympathetic, very human Bartolo - in Beaumarchais far more central to the play than in Rossini. Though entitled, autocratic, and foolishly infatuated with his ward, he is not without a certain softer side. Lucas Calzada gives Figaro just the right combination of brash street sense, insolent banter, and opportunistic cleverness, while Chris White almost steals every scene he is in as the affected, dandyish, money-hungry Don Bazille. Kelsey Burke captures the strength and originality of Beaumarchais' heroine, Rosine. No wilting creature, she rebels against the dictates of a society that would try to dispose of her hand and her dowry without the consent of her heart. She gives a winning account of the music lesson scene and she sparkles with a saucy charisma that helps explain Almaviva's and Bartolo's obsession with her. Mark Cartier makes the most of his scene as the bewildered notary. Rounding out the ensemble are Joe Mariani as Sprightly and Alcade and Isabella Etro as a servant.
The two most recent installments of TAM's Vive La France season demonstrate the company's agile affinity in producing and performing classic theatre - not only its signature Shakespeare, but also masterworks from world literature.
Photos courtesy of Theater at Monmouth
The Barber of Seville runs in repertoire until August 16, 2016, at Theater at Monmouth, 796 Main Street, Monmouth, ME 207-933-9999