Review: The Cherry Arts Presents a Masked Outdoor Production of THE FAN

Finally, audiences in Ithaca, New York had their chance to see a creative approach to a live performance.

By: Sep. 27, 2020
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Review: The Cherry Arts Presents a Masked Outdoor Production of THE FAN
Cast members of the Cherry Arts' production of The Fan.
Photo courtesy of the production.

Theater audiences, performers, and creative teams have certainly been longing for a live onstage production since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, audiences in Ithaca, New York had their chance to see a creative approach to a live performance with The Cherry Arts fully masked production of the entertaining farce, The Fan by Carlo Goldini under the creative adaptation of director Samuel Buggeln. The performances are now available to watch online and were performed live in front of an audience that was distanced, outdoor, and masked following all of New York state's safety precautions and guidelines.

The performers are all fully masked and the theater describes the production as a new form calling it "lip-sync without lips." The production features a voice cast as well as a live cast. The onstage production is performed to a prerecorded tract which includes all dialogue, music, and crazy sound effects. This resulted in crisp and clear sound as designed by Lesley Greene. The socially distant live cast garbs comedic COVID masks (Mask designer Edith McCrea) and showcases over the top movement allowing the distant audience (all in their own distant marked areas in Ithaca's lovely Stewart Park) to know who is "speaking" at that moment. This task obviously calls for some top-notch character actors and that is in fact what the audience gets. The entire live cast playfully show off their comedic characters.

The wide raised stage in the middle of the park served as the perfect setting for this wild and crazy masked outdoor performance of The Fan as the entire live cast all, in period costumes, (costume design team Lisa Boquist, Olivia Kirschbaum, Pelle Melio, Sasha Oliveau) moves energetically from scene to scene (scenic artist Joy Lionel and scenic construction Greg Carlson) playing off of the prerecorded tract of voice actors. The set features simple yet effective chairs and signs. The actors treat the audience to delightfully entertaining dance numbers, choreographed to 1960's Italian pop music, (choreographer Kaitlyn Jackson) at the end of each. Those random dance numbers were a favorite.

Goldini's fast paced play where confusion and misunderstandings about a simple fan causes chaos among all the characters as the fan travels from characters of all class levels. Of course, romance and love are at the center of all of this craziness. Signor Evaristo voiced by Benno Ressa and passionately performed by Robert Denzel Edwards wants to win the affections of Candida who is vibrantly voiced by Sandrinne Edstrom and dramatically performed by Isabelle Dickey. Evaristo purchases the fan from a busy body shopkeeper named Susanna, voiced by Amoreena Wade and confidently performed by Teresa Gelsomini. Other characters in the town get mixed up in the madness of the love of Evaristo and Candida and one of them is a spunky and sassy spinning girl named Giannina expressively voiced by Darcy Rose and with a spotlight stealing performance by Ronee Goldman. Giannina is in love with the cobbler Crispino voiced by Jacob Garrett White and performed with spot on comedic timing by Will Davary. Giannina unfortunately has been promised to the inn keeper Coronato, voiced by Eric Brooks and performed by Adara Alston, by her controlling brother Morracchio, voiced by Austin Jones and performed by Jeff Tagliaferro. Evaristo wants Giannina to deliver the fan to the lovely Candida. Unfortunately, that doesn't work out and that is when all complications start in this whirlwind comedy of love and class.

Other standouts performances include Jeffrey Guyton's voice work as the Count and Benno Ressa's consistent and lively over the top live performance as the egotistical Count. Marc Gomes voices the Baron and Derek Powell, known for his spot-on character acting, entertains with his live and confident performance.

The Fan is without a doubt predictable, but with the energetic performances, clear voice recordings, and hilarious script, the production proves to be entertaining. Live performances are something our society is definitely craving and I am happy that The Cherry Arts found a creative way to bring some life, action, comedy, and escape to their theater audience with their wildly creative new form and approach to a live stage performance of a truly amusing play.

Running time: Approximately 1 hour and 25 minutes with no intermission.

The Cherry Arts production of The Fan performed at Stewart Park in Ithaca, New York from September 17, 2020 through September 26, 2020 and was free to the community with reserved spots for socially distant seating and there is also a free online version. For tickets and information on this production and upcoming productions at The Cherry Arts click here.