Theater Review: Graceful slapstick

Molière's ‘The Scams of Scapin' at the Khan Theater.

By BY JONAH MANDEL
February 19, 2010 18:22
2 minute read.
Moliere's 'The Scams of Scapin.'

moliere scapin 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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‘The Scams of Scapin’
By Molière
Khan Theater
February 9

The Khan Theater’s new production of Molière’s The Scams of Scapin, directed by Udi Ben-Moshe, had last Tuesday’s audience smiling from the first note of the amusing opening song and didn’t let up for an hour and a half of nearly nonstop hilarious stage action.

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The plot is straightforward and typical to the genre. Two young men, Octave (Yoav Hyman) and Leandre (Udi Rothschild) fall in love with two young women, Hyacinthe (Shimrit Lustig) and Zerbinette (Nili Rogel). However, the youths’ greedy and power-hungry fathers, Argante (Arie Tcherner) and Geronte (Yehoyachin Friedlander), have different marital plans for their boys. Enter the crafty servant Scapin (Vitali Friedland), who agrees to solve things for the lovers with the help of the assistant Silvestre (Erez Shafrir), while punishing the fathers in the bargain.   

Jean-Baptiste Poquelin’s (better-known as Molière) light farcical comedy, drawing heavily from the commedia dell’arte tradition, premiered in 1671 and was considered by some contemporary critics a step back for the actor and playwright, who had already penned more “serious” comedies such as The Misanthrope and Tartuffe, but proves that, properly treated, comic elements can always be funny. 

An empty stage framed by white parallel walls facing the audience was the setting for the scenes, which took place indoors and outside. The many openings between the walls were utilized by the actors for entrances and exits, at times swift, at times unexpected, with the lighting changing to help frame and define the place and mood of the action. Keren Peles’s music provided an upbeat accompaniment for the dialogue and stage dynamics, reminiscent at times of a silent-movie soundtrack.

The slightly aged Hebrew translation by poet Natan Alterman, as well as the actors’ graceful and elegant body language, infused the production with grace and class, even when the comedy was downright slapstick. The costumes furthered that line with classic suits spiked with punky touches of sneakers and hairdos for the funkier characters. 


Friedland’s sensual and somewhat androgynous Scapin, the pivotal figure of the show, seemed like a subtle wink to the Roman god Cupid, who had similar traits and was tasked with bringing lovers together, thus reinforcing yet another link in the long chain of Western theatrical tradition from antiquity to modernity.

Tcherner’s delightfully bumbling character perfectly complemented Friedlander’s ramrod rigidity in depicting two aspects of inflexible old patrons in the way of young love and paying the price for it.   

The Khan repertory theater has proven once again its ability to stage superb productions of any genre. This play is an opportunity to laugh through a stylized farce that doesn’t really need words to convey its message.

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