By Peter Frost
Scapin is a production necessarily balanced on the edge of a sword. Cutting between commentary and amusement, the satire engaged in a tricky balancing act that paid off tremendously onstage last weekend. The production, staged in the Bolton Theater, managed its many pieces to hilarious effect, crafting a show as sharply satiric as it was ridiculously entertaining.
Based on Molires 17th-century comedy Les Fourberies de Scapin, the show is a madcap race through Italy with Scapin, a servant, schemer and master manipulator.
Scapin, with the help of his partner in crime Sylvestre, cheats and lies for personal gain, always weaseling his way out of negative consequences with mere seconds to spare.
Mistaken identity, kidnapping and betrothal Scapin moved swiftly through these plot twists. In fact, the pacing was so breakneck that specific events came to seem almost beside the point. Marriages were planned, schemes were concocted and disguises were donned. There were chase scenes, dance numbers and fight sequences that were drawn directly from commonplace theater tropes. These elements, however, were always at the mercy of the productions boundless energy and sharp criticism.
Performances, not plot, powered Scapin, each of them abounding in energy and theatricality.
In a cast of stellar individuals, two of the most memorable performers were Matt Super 15 and Elliot Cromer 15 as Argante and Geronte. Falling prey to Scapins machinations, both gave hilarious performances that played to the audience as much as they did to the other actors.
Though the show depended on the energy of the ensemble, Scapin ultimately succeeded or failed with the performance of the titular rogue. Aaron Lynn 14 embodied the character with equal parts charm, wit and sleaze, manipulating every character with hilarious aplomb.
In his direction, Thomas S. Turgeon Professor of Drama Jonathan Tazewell used every inch of the performance space effectively.
Each moment was presented to elicit the most possible laughter, and, without fail, they all did. Performers leapt into the audience and off of the stage, sprang through seats of audience members and broke the fourth wall that separates them from the viewers multiple times. In doing so, an almost symbiotic relationship with the spectators emerged, necessitating the audiences attention and laughter.
While unequivocally a satire, Scapin never strayed too far from its simultaneous role as a comedy. The productions slapstick spirit was directed by more than the pursuit of laughter, yet one was never compromised in order to fulfill the other, and both worked on multiple levels throughout the entirety of the show. Its difficult to achieve, but Tazewell and the performers respected the intelligence of the audience members enough to let them connect the dots on their own should they chose to do so.
Scapin skewered stock characters, plot tropes and dramatic conventions and the cast made all this look easy.
An immediate, kinetic and biting satire, Scapin was a ludicrous and hilarious riot.