Theater Review: Graceful slapstick

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

moliere scapin 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
moliere scapin 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
‘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 thefirst note of the amusing opening song and didn’t let up for an hourand a half of nearly nonstop hilarious stage action.
The plot is straightforward and typical to the genre. Two young men,Octave (Yoav Hyman) and Leandre (Udi Rothschild) fall in love with twoyoung women, Hyacinthe (Shimrit Lustig) and Zerbinette (Nili Rogel).However, the youths’ greedy and power-hungry fathers, Argante (ArieTcherner) and Geronte (Yehoyachin Friedlander), have different maritalplans for their boys. Enter the crafty servant Scapin (VitaliFriedland), who agrees to solve things for the lovers with the help ofthe assistant Silvestre (Erez Shafrir), while punishing the fathers inthe bargain.   
Jean-Baptiste Poquelin’s (better-known as Molière) light farcicalcomedy, drawing heavily from the commedia dell’arte tradition,premiered in 1671 and was considered by some contemporary critics astep 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 wasthe setting for the scenes, which took place indoors and outside. Themany openings between the walls were utilized by the actors forentrances and exits, at times swift, at times unexpected, with thelighting changing to help frame and define the place and mood of theaction. Keren Peles’s music provided an upbeat accompaniment for thedialogue and stage dynamics, reminiscent at times of a silent-moviesoundtrack.
The slightly aged Hebrew translation by poet Natan Alterman, as well asthe actors’ graceful and elegant body language, infused the productionwith grace and class, even when the comedy was downright slapstick. Thecostumes furthered that line with classic suits spiked with punkytouches of sneakers and hairdos for the funkier characters. 
Friedland’s sensual and somewhat androgynous Scapin, the pivotal figureof the show, seemed like a subtle wink to the Roman god Cupid, who hadsimilar traits and was tasked with bringing lovers together, thusreinforcing yet another link in the long chain of Western theatricaltradition from antiquity to modernity.
Tcherner’s delightfully bumbling character perfectly complementedFriedlander’s ramrod rigidity in depicting two aspects of inflexibleold patrons in the way of young love and paying the price for it.   
The Khan repertory theater has proven once again its ability to stagesuperb productions of any genre. This play is an opportunity to laughthrough a stylized farce that doesn’t really need words to convey itsmessage.