BWW Reviews: Wit, Passion & Intrigue in STAGEright's I GELOSI
A strong ensemble is crucial in most any play, especially when dealing with commedia dell'arte as each performer takes on typical archetypes which when combined create a solid show. Assuming, that is, there are no weak links. Luckily with STAGEright's current commedia production of "I Gelosi" the ensemble here is quite strong. Furthermore David Bridel's play goes beyond a simple commedia and delves into a potential history of one of Europe's most famous commedia troupes and creates an intriguing and heartfelt piece about the power of theater.
As I said the Gelosi were famous throughout Europe in the late 1500's into the early 1600's. When we meet the Gelosi they share with us the origins of their company from struggling, almost starving artists to the toast of Europe to outcasts. We start with the leader of the company Francesco (David Roby) and his two cohorts Guilio and Simone (Peter McCarthy King and Robert Keene) who have returned from the war together and managed to survive prison but can't seem to make their company profitable. That is until they gradually add to their ranks members who each bring their own good fortune to the company either through artistry or connections. There's the poetic Isabella (Sarah Lockard), the lovelorn Orazio (Tristan Carruthers), the sultry Vittoria (Jana Gueck) and the no nonsense Sylvia (Jacquelyn Miedema). And as the troupe grows so do their fortunes as they manage to garner a patron in the Duke Of Mantua (John Clark) who sends them off to entertain at the court of France for the King, Charles IX and his mother Catherine (Duncan Pound and Kelly K. Johnson). But their fortune quickly turns to trouble as they discover they are being used as pawns for the royals' political schemes. Francesco doesn't take this news well as he has already been used by the government in their wars and develops a scheme of his own that ends up angering all the wrong people.
Director Colin Madison shows his love for the art of commedia as he's directed his troupe to inhabit but never satirize their assigned archetypes. Plus the show, with its interweaving plots manages to flow quite nicely (although there were a few scene changes that need some more speed). As I mentioned the ensemble is superb and all turn in fine performances but there were a few stand outs. Roby completely captivates as the leader of this group and displays an intensity and confidence which shows why these performers would follow him. Keene is hilariously adorable as the constantly hungry buffoon but never takes him to the realm of mugging or annoying. And Gueck is delightful as she connives her way through the scenes and revels in the schadenfreude of any troublesome situation with a devilish twinkle in her eye.
With a gorgeous set and lights from Bill Johns and John Chenault plus some beautiful costumes from Joyce Madison the look and feel of the show are spot on. The performers each have their own reasons for the play; profit, fame, food, poetry, rebellion, love and revenge. But as an audience we simply want entertainment and we get that in spades which is why I give "I Gelosi" a solid YAY with my three letter rating system.
"I Gelosi" from STAGEright performs at the Ballard Underground through August 30th. For tickets or information visit them online at www.seattlestageright.org.