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A CurtainUp Review
Beaumarchais’ initial play about Figaro, The Barber of Seville, first performed in1775, at the Comédie-Française in the Tuileries, was based on commedia dell’arte themes and characters. It recounts how Figaro helps the Count woo and win Rosine, who is locked up in the house of her guardian, Dr, Bartholo.
Three years later, Beaumarchais returned to Figaro. By this time, the Count has grown tired of Rosine, and his womanizing has thrown her into despair (and the arms of the Count’s page, Cherubin). Figaro is about to marry Suzanne, the Countess’s maid, but when Suzanne tells him she has become the object of the Count’s unwanted attention, he goes into action.
Figaro concocts a scheme, which might have worked if not for alternative schemes by the Countess; the aging housekeeper, Marceline, who is determined to marry Figaro herself; and Cherubin, who is in love with being in love.
Given the play’s scorching comments on the shenanigans of the nobility, it should not come as a surprise that Louis XVI initially banned the play. Nor should it surprise that the play proved so popular when read clandestinely that Louis was forced to relent. The Marriage of Figaro was a hit among the nobility, which enjoyed laughing at itself, and the working class, which enjoyed laughing at the nobility.
Today Figaro is a French icon, celebrated every time someone picks up the newspaper, Le Figaro. We also might well recall Figaro every time we see people of the lower classes outwitting their “betters.”
The Pearl’s staging uses period costumes and set. And although Morey has updated much of the language and filled the dialogue with modern references, such as Nixon’s Checker’s Speech and Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, his version is basically true to the original. Yet >The Marriage of Figaro is decidedly relevant today, given the political climate we live in.
Under Hal Brooks’ superb direction, the show does not move; it flies. Laugh follows laugh as quickly as galloping horses. Sean McNall is an enthusiastic Figaro who can also be thoughtful. His ironic asides to the audience are seamlessly integrated into the dialogue and never seem forced. MacNall overflows with self-confidence and energy. One could not ask for a better Figaro.
Figaro finds his perfect match and mate in Suzanne, as played by Jolly Abraham. She is every inch a modern woman in servants’ clothing. She is far more wise than ridiculous, though she never ceases to be funny.de Joey Parsons as the Countess and Chris Mixon as the Count, as well as Robin Leslie Brown as Marceline and Ben Charles, who plays Cherubin.
>The Marriage of Figaro is a most enjoyable experience. But let us not forget it preceded the French Revolution by only eleven years. Laughter can be dangerous.
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