It is a rare talent indeed that can take a classic masterpiece of ironic substance and style, impose the manners and mores of a later era, equally as stylish and ironic, and make it all work. Director Nicole Lerario is just such a talent, however, and her resetting of Molière's The Ridiculous Young Ladies to the Paris of the 1920s provided for a deliriously fizzy afternoon of pure enchantment.
What made it all work was that Lerario's vision never overwhelmed the work itself -- she (and her outstanding ensemble) let the period trappings support the ideas in Molière's text rather than the other way around, as is so often the case with updated classics. She found and polished the inherent wit and elegance with a cloth of rich Patou velvet, and gave her cast free reign to explode with a jazzy edge that was absolutely intoxicating to watch.
Jackie Payne used her limited stage time well as a haughty but down-to-earth dowager à la Margaret Dumont (Mother is ALWAYS right, dammit!), as did Scott Addison Clay and Douglas Scott Sorenson as spurned lovers whose plot for revenge sets the whole thing in motion. Beth Carusillo was a hoot as a snappy, gum-chewing maid, and Sean Madsen stole every one of his moments with his hilariously deadpan physicality as a snooty butler. As fine as these were, however, the production belonged to Mark J. Dempsey, Amy Caitlin Carr, Christiaan Koop, and Michaelangelo Barasorda as the ridiculous young ladies and the servants sent to humiliate them by wooing them under false pretenses. Carr, whether snapping a fan, adjusting her wig, or simply chewing with impeccable comic timing, was a total, laugh-out-loud delight, as was Koop, her partner in pretentious social climbing. Barasorda shrewdly mixed his matinee-idol looks with an aggressively madcap vigor to good advantage, while Dempsey was simply perfection -- his outrageous vocal pyrotechnics, fey movements, and larger-than-life style propelled the show forward with an energy that was drunk on its own power to please, absolutely spot-on for his character, the material, and the production surrounding it.
The costumes (uncredited) were gorgeous in their 1920s ambience, and if there were any cavils, it would only be that as an outdoor production there weren't any scenery, lighting, or appreciable sound effects to provide the perfect setting for this sparkling jewel. This "Ridiculous Young Ladies really was one of those love affairs between performers and the text they are inhabiting that bubbled over the "footlights" to embrace their audience as well, and one that could (and should) be picked up and moved to an intimate proscenium theatre for an extended run.
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Copyright 2002 Doug DeVita