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Theater | THEATER REVIEW

17th century play, modern sensibility

Nimble acting and crisp humor enhance Meadows Basement's updated 'Fortune.'

March 19, 2004|F. Kathleen Foley | Special to The Times

The intrepid gang at Meadows Basement shows formidable range in "Isabella's Fortune," an updated romp freely adapted from an obscure 17th century scenario by Flaminio Scala.

The group's recent production, "Eighteen," was an elliptical and terse three-character drama about a husband, a wife and the troubled teenage niece who triggers their familial meltdown.

It's a daring leap from that downplayed tale of subterranean despair to this unabashedly broad and busy slapstick vehicle, but this nimble company vaults the gap with no apparent effort.

Scala's text has been boldly "plagiarized" by adaptor Wade McIntyre, who retains the stock characters and classic outlines of commedia dell'arte but infuses them with a cheeky and subversive quality that is distinctly modern.

Many directors turn stuffy and reverential when approaching the venerable commedia form. Fortunately, director Aaron Ginsburg takes little seriously except for comedic timing.

In that, he is a taskmaster, as evidenced by this crisp and funny staging. Some of the running gags may grind on too long, but they are always crisply calibrated.

In the title role, Samantha Montgomery is straightforward and appealing as a noblewoman who comes to Rome seeking to avenge herself upon the two-timing Captain (droll Steven Bakken), who once jilted her.

Among the consistently funny cast, Matt Saunders and Jon Molerio stand out as the conniving servants whose self-serving shenanigans fuel the humor.

*

'Isabella's Fortune'

Where: Theatre/Theater, 6425 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood

When: Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Sundays, April 4 and 18 only, 2 p.m.

Ends: April 18

Price: $15

Contact: (323) 782-6218

Running time: 2 hours

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