‘The Schemings of Scapin’ at Annapolis Shakespeare Company

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Bodies are humorous again! For two years running now! Returning for their second annual “Comedy in the Courtyard” series, Annapolis Shakespeare Company is back and bringing the laughter to theatergoers of Annapolis. Right in the back courtyard of Reynolds Tavern, The Schemings of Scapin, a Molière classic comedy, has all the hallmarks of hilarity— mistaken identities, schemes, high end physical farce and enough ‘private’ jokes to flood the whole of Annapolis Harbor. An excellent evening out, this production will have you in stitches as the adaptation by Timothy Mooney brings modern rhyming couplets loaded with innuendo into the mix. Directed by the company’s Founding Artistic Director Sally Boyett, the show is high-end hilarity for all who stumble into this zany show.

The cast of The 'Schemings of Scapin.' Photo by Josh McKerrow.

The cast of The ‘Schemings of Scapin.’ Photo by Josh McKerrow.

Costume Coordinator Maggie Cason brings the authenticity of colonial Annapolis to life in her design work. The period piece costumes add to the overall hilarity and humorous situations of the show. Cason incorporates a fair bit of lace into the design work, Octave, the rather flamboyant and sniveling coward boy, is flounced out in the stuff from collar to cuff with ruffs in-between and bows on his shoes. Hyacinthe’s dress is also quite the piece to marvel over, bows everywhere complimenting a chocolate raspberry and gold striping pattern.

Director Sally Boyett understands how to execute the concept of bodies being humorous. Working within the intimate confines of the Reynolds Tavern Courtyard, eight actors take on nine characters and bring comic moments to everyone through their physicality. Boyett works a great deal of farcical elements into her choreography of the show; servants spinning one another around, people constantly colliding; all culminating into crazy comedic chaos that leaves the audience rolling with delight. Making exceptional use of intimate surroundings, the audience becomes a part of the story in Boyett’s production; keep an eye out for characters who might attempt a conversation with you, or perhaps try to hide from other characters while you enjoy the show.

Each of the actors has a thoroughly developed character that they articulate in this performance, and all of them have a solid handle on the rhyming couplet scheme that carries the text of the show. Zachary Roberts, the only actor who doubles characters, brings twice as many laughs late during Act III when he arrives as Nerine the female nurse. Roberts’ portrayal of the narcissistic Leandre is comic genius. His ability to remain hot-tempered while still completely infatuated with his own person is an added layer of hilarity. He plays well against Octave (Michael Windsor) who has a similar lover’s dilemma.

Windsor, as the whimpering, simpering sissy boy, gives an exceptional performance. Using his over the top theatrics to play up the cowardice of his character Windsor achieves a great deal of comic respect from the audience as he bemoans his troubles. His beloved Hyacinthe (Jackie Madejski) mirrors his simpering mannerisms well; her shrill squealing and outbursts of hysterics makes her character horrifically annoying in the most humorous way possible.

Where there are young lovers and their troubles there are often fathers. In this case Argante (Joseph Palka) and Geronte (Gray West) fit the bill for curmudgeonly old men who meddle, muddle, and fuss over their children. Palka brings a curiously French-British hybrid of an accent to the table while adding a unique physicality to the character that makes him quite the scream. West, who has one of the funniest ‘private’ jokes with Scapin, brings a thorough understanding of timing in physical comedy to his portrayal. Together these fine fellows put an uproarious seal on the aging fathers of the show.

While only gracing the stage in Act III, Zerbinette (Lauren Turchin) is a scene stealer hands down. Bringing her thick gypsy accent to match her bedangled gypsy character, Turchin is a hoot, a scream, and a good roll in the hay for the handful of minutes that her character is experienced. Her facial expressions are vividly animated and her overall personality is vivacious in a way that makes her leap from the stage and into the laps of the audience. Turchin’s interactions with the audience are the most effective as she works the crowd using her body and her humors to really get a rise out of everyone watching.

- (l to r) Leandre (Zachary Roberts) Octave (Michael Windsor), and Scapin (Charlie Retzlaff). Photo by Josh McKerrow.

– (l to r) Leandre (Zachary Roberts) Octave (Michael Windsor), and Scapin (Charlie Retzlaff). Photo by Josh McKerrow.

Two servants, one scared silly Sylvestre (Ashlyn Thompson) and the other the title lead of the show, Scapin (Charlie Retzlaff) bring the humor right down the line with their schemes. While it is mostly Retzlaff’s character doing the scheming, the way he manages to entangle poor Sylvestre is woefully amusing. Thompson adapts a nasally sound for her character, making the servant nerdy and uncertain, dithering about fraught with worry. These fine characteristics are extended through her entire body and make scenes where her character is forced to portray someone that she is not absolutely hysterical.

As for Retzlaff in the title role, he works the angles of Scapin’s schemes. Clever, cunning, and throwing a bit of sassy attitude into the mix, Retzlaff has the audience on a roll every time a new plan is hatched. His articulation of the rhyming couplet scheme is the most balanced in the production and his overall physically exasperating coverage of the space brings a heightened sense of humor to the show. A great production, a fanciful fun evening of laughing all around, this is a brilliant performance to attend when trying to get a giggle from theatre this summer.

Running Time: Approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes, with two intermissions.

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The Schemings of Scapin plays on Tuesday evenings through July 29, 2014 through the Annapolis Shakespeare Company in The Courtyard at Reynolds Tavern— 7 Church Circle at the top of Historic Annapolis, MD. For ticket reservations, call (410) 415-3513, or purchase them online.

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