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Theater | Theater Review

Lessons in Love in 'School for Wives'

January 03, 2002|JANA J. MONJI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Director Benjamin Hoppe embraces low economics and loosely blends commedia dell'arte traditions by way of slapstick for a fun though slightly perplexing production of Moliere's "The School for Wives" at the Knightsbridge Theatre.

This uncredited adaptation includes a character (sometimes with a selected audience member) reading from the script or from script annotations, as well as explanations for terms that might confuse and a scattering of four-letter words. At first the defining of words such as "cuckold" could be seen as an attempt to appeal to younger audiences, but that is contradicted by the smattering of foul language.

John Lohr blusters and sweats with anxiety as the middle-aged Arnolphe, who is raising his young ward Agnes (Sarah White) in ignorance, in hopes that she will become his subservient wife. White's Agnes is perkily innocent, wrinkling her brow in concentration at every puzzling thought. Nick Collins' Horace exudes youthful exuberance and over-the-top earnestness while pursuing his true love, Agnes.

In the minor roles, Jose A. Garcia as the clown, a notary and Agnes' long-lost father, along with Paul Lirette and Kathleen Campbell as Arnolphe's servants, provide some moments of comic relief.

Not all the scene changes are clearly delineated in this bare-bones staging, yet this version has a charming, unpretentious silliness, beginning at the usual pre-show announcements and continuing to the final bows.

*

"The School for Wives," Knightsbridge Theatre, 35 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena. Fridays, 8 p.m., Sundays, 12 p.m. (626) 440-0821. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.

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