Fun and games with Moliére
by steve martin
If you're a junkie for the local theater scene, there's something extra enjoyable about watching familiar actors and directors rehearse together-witnessing the creative collaboration that culminates when a show finally opens.
It's an even greater pleasure when those rehearsals go smoothly enough to fool you into thinking the show is already playing to paying audiences. Such was the case during a recent preview of Scapino!, a comedy directed by Rick Hoover opening this weekend at Boise Little Theater.
More than a week before opening night, much of the magic that will no doubt help this show soar was already in place, fueled by a functional set (courtesy of set designer Jerry Snodgrass), period costumes, good choreography and already-strong performances by most of the cast.
Based on the 1671 comedy Les Fourberies de Scapin by Moliére, Scapino! is a farce centered around the title character (embodied delightfully here by the energetic Lane Bottemiller), who takes on the task of helping two lovestruck young Italian men (James Ulmen and Christian Shiverick) convince their fathers (Frederic Webb and Doug Brinkman) to let them choose their own brides.
Events unfold in and around an Italian restaurant in Naples, where the capable, mostly silent staff (led by a perky Wanda Webb and always-reliable Joseph Wright) happily cater to the main characters' needs, occasionally breaking into song and expertly throwing dishes back and forth like an NFL team passing a football.
Taking a cue from the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Hoover has many of his actors enter and exit through the audience aisles. Many jokes are aimed directly at theater patrons, proving distracting at times, but mostly serving as a clever way to further involve the audience in Scapino's shenanigans.
By show's end, it is a wonder Bottemiller can still speak and stand, given the amount of running and speaking required of him. One particularly funny scene finds his Scapino weaving a web of delectable deception while shoving spaghetti and wine down the throat of Webb's befuddled Argante. Another gem comes later when Bottemiller shoves Brinkman's cowardly Geronte into a bag and beats him in the guise of a supposed pirate, Asian bully and unit of British soldiers.
Ulman and Shiverick get a workout as the smitten Ottavio and Leandro. Ullman proves particularly adept at physical comedy, his body snapping effortlessly to and fro like a branch in a windstorm and his facial expressions smacking of a Three Stooges routine, a characteristic he honed a couple years back as the lead in another Hoover production, Bullshot Crummond.
Actor Perry Decker, another Bullshot alum, turns up as Carlo-a happy-go-lucky bum who wanders in and out of scenes, often interfering at inopportune moments to welcome comic effect. Grant Schoeneweis, starring most recently as Dr. Jekyll's best friend in Hoover's Jekyll & Hyde, plays a similar role here as Scapino's unwitting accomplice in trickery, Sylvestro.
Actresses are few and far between in this cast of 19, but among them, Alies Watson and Angela Simitzes enjoy a few amusing moments as Giacinta and Zerbinetta, the women enamored by Ottavio and Leandro. Simitzes, in particular, delights while telling a story of Scapino's duplicity to Geronte, unknowingly leading to the collapse of Scapino's already delicate house of cards.
By Frank Dunlop and Jim Dale
Directed by Rick Hoover
Feb. 25, 26, March 3 to 6, 9 to 12
Boise Little Theater, 100 E. Fort St.
More info/tickets: 342-5104,