If you’ve ever found fleeting social trends to be disconcerting- never fear, so did Gilbert and Sullivan. In their comedic operetta Patience, now on stage at The Victorian Lyric Opera Company, they explore the whims of popular culture as it relates to the Aesthetic Movement. For those who need a refresher, the Aesthetic Movement took place in Europe in the 19th century and has been criticized as a shallow and superficial artistic movement, which produced the saying “art for art’s sake.” Felicity Ann Brown directs this oddly timely operetta, now playing through June 17, 2018, at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre in Rockville.
If you are a long time fan of operetta, or considering testing the waters, this Patience is a good bet. Robin Steitz, as the titular character, is an absolute revelation. Her voice is strong and clear and her comedic timing is fantastic. Her rendition of the second act’s “Love is a Plaintive Song” is easily one of the best I’ve ever heard. A notable performance from the purple prose-slinging Bunthorne (Rick DuPuy) offers a great foil to Steitz. He is never overpowering but allows the audience to see the humor in his ill-considered adoption of aesthetic values.
The narcissistic Grosvenor (Kevin Schellhase) flounces around the stage dressed like Little Lord Fauntleroy. His vocal performance is strong, especially when he joins forces with Bunthorne for “When I go out of door” and when he sings his solo “A magnet hung in a hardware shop.” Costume Designer Denise Young lends her considerable talents to outfitting the aesthetes, the maidens, and the Dragoons of the town. She uses pastels and soft colors that evoke the period in which the operetta takes place.
Speaking of Dragoons, quite a few of the gentlemen stood out. The comedic aspects of this operetta were prominent during “It’s clear that medieval art,” which involves the Lieutenant/Duke of Dunstable (Bob Gudauskas), Major Murgatroyd (Michael Bader), and Colonel Calverly (Jim Knost) trying to emulate the aesthetes in order to win the maiden’s affections back from them. The Lady Jane, played by Denise Young, lends a sympathetic performance to the woman whose most prominent qualities are her age and weight.
Choreographer Jacklyn Rogers moves the characters appropriately across Scenic Designer William Pressley’s appropriately Romanesque set during the moments where dance is included. Combined with the costuming, all of the elements come together to make a setting which appears much like a painting which is being created on stage.
The orchestra, directed by Joseph Sorge, hits all the right notes of the upbeat Gilbert and Sullivan piece. The only complaint one might have is that the orchestra sometimes drowns out the singers, of whom some have a lower volume than others. This could be due to limitations that stem from the size of the space.
Patience is a fun, uproariously funny romp for fans of Gilbert and Sullivan. Robin Steitz, as Patience, delivers a vocal performance which is not to be missed. The Victorian Lyric Opera Company stands out as a unique asset in producing works which get less attention, but are deeply relevant to modern audiences. Patience says as much about our society now as it was when it premiered.
Running Time: Two hours and 25 minutes, with one intermission.