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BWW Review: BAROCOCO BY HAPPENSTANCE THEATER  at Capital Fringe Festival

In true Fringe style, Happenstance Theater Company's Barococo takes on the inanity and decadence of the Baroque and Rococo. It is a picturesque rendering of an era that is characterized by a bloated upper class on the eve of extinction.

The bulk of the production is spent watching six frivolous aristocrats play mindless parlor games, take music lessons, and listlessly wander the stage. Despite their best efforts, a dark shadow hangs over their manufactured reality.

Barococo is a black comedy that benefits from a hefty dose of physical comedy and precise choreography. Aristocrats Olympia (Sabrina Mandell), Astorio (Mark Jaster), Contastance (Gwen Grastorf), Dauphine (Sarah Olmsted Thomas), Leslie (Alex Vernon), and Doppio (Karen Hansen) are a team. They move in unison and effortlessly execute a series of mesmerizingly entertaining pantomimes and charades. Surprisingly, it all feels very unrehearsed.

Beyond the success of the ensemble as a unit, the individual characters themselves are fairly nondescript. Each actor's charm, charisma, and skill shines bright but the lack of individuality of the characters themselves really reinforces the vapidity of the apathetic, so-called 1% of the era. It's difficult to tell if this is intentional or not (there are some attempts to indicate personality traits) but for me, it worked. Thinly veiled sexual innuendo and the repetitiveness of the characters "pursuits" onstage are used successfully to paint a picture of a truly useless group of people who are defined by the aesthetic.

A lot of smart decisions went into curating this production. Gorgeous lace costumes and powdered wigs and period instruments capture the "barococo" period. It is noteworthy that Hansen, the company's Music Director, plays all of these lesser-known instruments on stage.

A minimalist stage design and the beautiful theater space at Arena Stage keep the production value high, as appropriate with the professional status of this particular theater company. As Capital Fringe veterans, I would expect no less.

The lack of a traditional plot and the aforementioned repetitiveness contributes to a mild tediousness that is mitigated by the short length of the production and an energetic cast.

Barococo is a solid Capital Fringe experience and it's very easy to see why it has performed so well so far.

Running Time: 60 minutes, no intermission

For more information on show times and tickets for BAROCOCO click here

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From This Author Jenny Minich