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A CurtainUp NJ Review
Join the discoverers club if you, like me, are being introduced for the first time to this rarely done comedy as it is performed with panache aplenty in the style of the commedia dell'arte. Full disclosure forces me to say that The Bungler isn't likely to replace such later masterful/satirical gems by the more mature Moliere as The Mistanthrope, The Imaginary Invalid or Tartuffe in your affection. Rather just let this breezily staged romp about a love-struck dimwit and his infinitely brighter valet take its contrived course without any further apology.
The plot or rather series of incidents all takes place in a single setting, a public square in Messina, Sicily handsomely designed by Dick Block to highlight two prominent homes. In one home with a small balcony overlooking the square resides a wealthy old buzzard Trufaldin (Eric Hoffmann) who is keeping a beautiful young Gypsy girl Célie (Sophia Blum) as his slave as security for a loan. Her beauty is such that two young men about town Lélie (Aaron McDaniel) and Léandre (Sam Ashdown) are distracted and quickly forget about their amorous pursuit of the pretty if less exotic Hippolyte (Devin Conway.)
The dim-witted Lélie turns to his cunning valet Mascarille (Kevin Isola) for help in wooing Célie but also in freeing her from what appears like captivity. The remainder of the play consists of the various and seemingly endless schemes invented by Mascarille for his boss to win the Gypsy's love...all of which are spoiled in quick succession by Lélie's stupefying, if unintentional, interference. You can expect that all the lovers are destined for happiness. The others, such as Hippolyte's father Anselme (James Michale Reilly), Lélie's father Pandolfe (Drew Dix), Célie's Gypsy suitor Andrès (Danilo Ottaviani and Trufaldin end up content with the outcome.
Isola is terrific as the inventive Mascarille who brilliantly recovers from his master's continuing blunders. He also makes the most of an arduously active role that also assigns him as the deliverer of exposition, much of it deliberately convoluted. Without him, we would be hard pressed to identify all the characters. I suspect that Moliere was chiding Shakespeare as some of them are to be revealed as related. Everyone deserves kudos for their esprit de corps and for the crisp delivery of their lines, although I'm wondering if one hilariously delivered line isn't a direct steal from The Wizard of Oz. The audience got it and roared with delight on the night I attended.
Paul Canada's outlandishly whimsical costumes offer many more reasons to be delighted. It quickly becomes obvious that subtlety has no place in this production that relies for its success on exaggeration. However, for a madcap way to spend an evening in the theater, you may not find anything more blatant in its effort than The Bungler.
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The Bungler by Moliè
Translated by Richard Wilbur
Directed by Brian B. Crowe
Cast: Aaron McDaniel (Lélie), Kevin Isola (Mascarille), Sophia Blum (Célie), Eric Hoffman (Trufaldin), James Michael Reilly (Anselme), Drew Dix (Pandolfe, Ergaste), Devin Conway (Hippolyte), Sam Ashdown (Léandre), Danilo Ottaviani (Messenger, Andrès), Citizens of Messina (Tommy Bowden, Isabel Lagana, Jack LeGoff)
Scenic Designer: Dick Block
Costume Designer: Paul Canada
Lighting Designer: Andrew Hungerford
Production Stage Manager: Kathy Snyder
Running Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, 36 Madison Ave (at Lancaster Road), on the campus of Drew University.
Tickets: 973 - 408 - 5600 or www.ShakesspeareNJ.org
Performances: Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7:30; Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8 pm; Matinees Saturdays and Sundays at 2 pm.
From 07/05/17 Opened 07/08/17 Ends 07/30/17
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 07/08/17
NJ Theatre Alliance
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