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A CurtainUp Review
The Gentleman Dancing-Master
By Shirley Safran
The 14 year old daughter, Hippolita, of a strict, though absentee father, is betrothed against her will to her cousin, an outrageous, frenchified dandy. Her father, having lived in Spain and now calling himself Don Diego, affects the dress and manner of Spain (including a hilarious Castilian lisp). In order to avoid marrying her foppish cousin, she tricks him into introducing her to a man he disdains, who turns out to be the handsome and charming Gerard. Not surprisingly, when they meet in secret, they fall in love. When they are discovered by her father, Gerard is forced to pretend to be her dancing master, though he can neither dance nor sing. The deception works despite Hippolita's aunt, Mrs. Caution, who, true to her name, desperately attempts to reveal the lovers' machinations, which she sees through. After numerous giddy twists and turns, it all ends happily of course.
The pert and wily Hippolita is a lady ahead of her time, despite her youth. She will only marry for love, and is not above testing Gerard's devotion with the bold (untrue) assertion that she has no money of her own. He, however, remains stalwart in his affections. Marsha Stephanie Black is adorable as Hippolita, with just enough steel to make her a real person. The rest of the cast is equally splendid, with special praise for Sean McNall as Hippolita's cousin, Monsieur de Paris, and for Dan Daily as Don Diego. Their scenes together reach the heights of inspired lunacy. Mr. McNall, attired in pink pantaloons, frilly blouse and a pink peruke seemingly fashioned from spun sugar, looks as though he wandered in from the Village Halloween parade. His garbled French accent, a kind of patois, is a perfect foil for Don Diego's nutty Spanish accent. They are the comic heart of the play, wildly over the top, yet always in control (a function of solid acting technique).
One small quibble: at almost 3 hours, the performance is a trifle long, even after judicious cuts. But the theatrical conventions of the period required songs and extended sword play, so do go. The times are grim and a little laughter never hurt anyone.
The Pearl, in its 21st year is a cultural treasure (pun intended). It brings to the theatre scene every year intelligent and imaginative productions of the standard classical repertoire, as well as the occasional forgotten one, such as this one.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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>6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by our editor.
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