“Scapin, or A Whole Lot of Fun for Free.”

Reviewed by Gail M. Burns, July 2007

“This is our adaptation of an adaptation of an adaptation, related to our own community and circumstances with respect for classic form.”
– Jonathan Croy, Director Scapin

I will entitle this review: “Scapin, or A Whole Lot of Fun for Free.”

Shakespeare & Company has hit on a genius business plan. It has turned itself into a summer destination. At the heart of this is its family-friendly free show on the Rose Footprint Theatre. After a few seasons of fitful experimentation, the Company has come up with the winning formula – an outrageously funny comedic romp offered in two parts. In other words once you have seen Part One, you’ve just got to come back for Part Two, or vice versa. And each time you come for the free show you are that much more likely to buy food at Josie’s Café, goodies from the gift shop, or full-price tickets to Shakespeare & Company shows.

This year’s offering is Scapin, Bill Irwin and Mark O’Donnell’s 1991 adaptation of Molière’s “Les Fourberies de Scapin” (1671). This is completely immaterial. Like last year’s presentation of Jeffrey Hatcher and Paolo Emilio Landi’s adaptation of Carlo Goldini’s The Servant of Two Masters the script is merely an excuse for lots of Shakespeare & Company stalwarts and students to put on silly costumes and dash about. And like last year’s production the age-old plot centers around a wily servant who dupes everyone. Even though we not longer live in an age of servitude, we get the joke. It is about the little guy versus the establishment, and the little guy wins. Hooray!

Scapino is a stock commedia del arte character. The name is related to our English word “escape” because Scapino is generally depicted as a coward, fleeing from all conflict, even that of his own creation, and indeed there is a fabulous chase scene which makes Part Two of this production a must-see. His traditional costume is green or turquoise and white stripes, a tradition carefully adhered to by costume designer Jenna Ware.

As Scapin, Michael F. Toomey cavorts about in baggy striped pants (all the better to conceal everything from books to thwackers in), lying left and right to get what he wants, which is primarily to stay out of trouble and make us laugh. Usually it is a toss up whether I recommend seeing Part One or Part Two (if you HAVE to choose and see only one part!) but this year it’s a no-brainer because in Part Two you get to see Toomey in drag (I know, I know, it’s a disguise) and that is a very, very funny thing to see. Besides, there is a quick recap of Part One and the delightful song I Wish That She Would Die (music by Christopher Michael Vecchio, lyrics by Jonathan Croy) is reprised, with Marc Scipione on guitar and dazzling vocals by David Joseph who plays Octave.

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