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'Scapin' Has the Right Touch

Theater review: OCC's revival of Moliere's comedy employs delicate treatment--a must.

October 03, 1997|T.H. McCULLOH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

COSTA MESA — Rare is the story used by so many writers as the one about the servant serving two masters by using his wits to outwit all who stand in his way. Moliere's "Scapin (Les Fourberies de Scapin)" is one of the funniest, and a revival at Orange Coast College, for the most part, shows why.

Its frothy premise rests on the scalawag Scapin (Timothy C. Todd), who is at the call of two young men-about-town, Octave (Coronado Romero) and Leandre (Ian Jensen). Both are enamored of young women, but their fathers disapprove, and Scapin must ensure that the parents will allow a match for love, instead of position or money.

He's a wily and slippery character, that Scapin, so joyously adept at his tricks and traps that, sure enough, he accomplishes his purpose with a stylish ease and at the same time shows up the fathers for the fools they are. Of course, in the end, the boys crave the exact girls their fathers have chosen, and Moliere's moral is: Exactly who are the fools?

A stylistic trick must be pulled off to make such comedies work. It's a lightness of approach, a delicate touch, and the ability to make the minimal violence as non-threatening as a Road Runner disaster or a Chaplin pratfall. Director Alex Golson is on to this, and his staging, on David Scaglione's attractive waterfront setting, is as light as a souffle and as quick as a wink.

Todd, in the title role, isn't quite as feather-light as he should be-- and much too serious--to get the most out of the role. Especially in the scene where he has Leandre's father, Geronte, in a sack, describing the dastardly villains about to attack him, beating the sack with a vengeance, the laughs could be much bigger.

The young lovers, Romero as Octave and Jensen as Leandre, fare better, with a good understanding of the slight pomposity of the style and the subtle coloring of character that makes them real. Most notable in the cast is Sean Henry as Octave's servant Silvestre, in a performance that would be too large in any other format but is just right in this staging of Moliere's comedy. His elaborate bows on encountering his superiors, as automatic as a tic, are a delight.

*

The objects of affection of the young blades, Tiffany M. McClintock as Zerbinette, purportedly a gypsy girl, and Helene Disbrow as Hyancinthe, a wide-eyed optimist, are charming and original portraits, particularly in Disbrow's opaque cheer. As the two fathers, Robert C. Wilson and Michael L. Ruelas bumble about in appropriate style and easily overcome the usual problem in college productions of playing way older than their years.

* "Scapin," Drama Lab, Orange Coast College, 2701 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa. Friday-Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m. Ends Sunday. $8. (714) 432-5880. Running time: 90 minutes.

Timothy C. Todd: Scapin

Coronado Romero: Octave

Ian Jensen: Leandre

Sean Henry: Silvestre

Robert C. Wilson: Argante

Michael L. Ruelas: Geronte

Tiffany M. McClintock: Zerbinette

Helene Disbrow: Hyancinthe

An Orange Coast College Theatre Department production of Moliere's comedy. Directed by Alex Golson. Scenic design: David Scaglione. Costume design: Brenda Wyatt. Lighting design: Rick Golson. Stage manager: Chad Wood.

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