BWW Review: Funny and Accessible SCAPIN at Ten Thousand Things
Ten Thousand Things is a treasure: a company dedicated to bringing live theater to marginalized and underserved audiences for free. They've been doing this in the Twin Cities for 25 years, under the inspired leadership of the nationally known Michelle Hensley. She retired in June of 2018. So this production is the first in new Artistic Director Marcela Lorca's inaugural season, and is directed by Randy Reyes, who is Artistic Director of Theater Mu locally. The mission of TTT is clearly in safe hands, especially given the extant structure of the Artist Core, a group of veteran actors who provide guidance and active advice to the organization.
By the time I saw this show, it had made more than a dozen stops around Minnesota, including rural areas: prisons, rehab facilities, community centers, homeless shelters, and the like. In downtown Minneapolis at Open Book, it played to a paying audience but under the same conditions as on tour: an ordinary room with three rows of folding chairs around an open playing space, with house lights up throughout, and LOTS of audience interaction. We all had a hoot of a good time.
This version of SCAPIN is Reyes' rewrite of Moliere's classic French comedy. The language is contemporary, and the actors were encouraged to tweak and add to Reyes' text in rehearsal. In flavor and acting style, it taps Moliere's roots in Commedia dell'Arte.
As in so many Commedia scenarios, the characters come in pairs. In keeping with tradition, the savviest person on stage is a servant, Scapin, played here with kinesthetic verve by a delightfully conniving Sarah Agnew, who puts on multiple voices in rapid succession without breaking a sweat. Her counterpart is the more timid Silvester (Kris Nelson), whose reactions help sell every moment he performs. There are also the requisite besotted lovers (a moonfaced Ricardo Beaird and a daffy Elise Langer). Each lover has a venal parent, here rendered with great physical contrast, to fine effect: Kimberley Richardson delivers Madam Arlene as a twitchy flamingo, and Karen Wiese-Thompson does Mr. Gary in hefty and rounded drag, aided by a mustache drawn on with eyebrow pencil.
These six actors carry all the roles, with wacky costuming (occasionally shared) helping to keep clear who is who. The piece runs about 90 minutes with no intermission, and is framed by a choral ditty that sets the comic and interactive tone. Composer Peter Vitale provides underscoring on a bunch of instruments from a corner of the room.
There's nothing elegant or snooty about TTT performances, but they always proffer a smart display of actorly zeal and skill. SCAPIN was fun, for sure, plus a little raucous and ill-behaved, true to Commedia. Since the audience is invited into the game, regularly treated to direct address, a TTT show is a celebratory indoor act of radical community building. Do try and catch a show. You have until November 4.
Photo credit: Paula Keller