At Agassiz through Sunday
Fitting together these three comedies, separated in style and centuries, was a clever idea. They are not linked by Gallic flavor (that's how they say garlic in this state: tasty, if a little foul), but by the lively acting of David H. Mills, who appears in each.
Mills is on and off stage constantly as three disconcertingly similar personalities, but handles this task with vigor and some variety. Rol Maxwell, who directed The Legacy and Please Don't Walk Around in the Nude, doesn't quite sustain the hilarity of his material, but he fully exploits the funniest situations of each play.
The Legacy, an early 18th century piece by Wilt the Stilt Marivaux, deals with Love, Marriage, and money, with the emphasis where it belongs. Sandra Prutting and Jacqueline Tabachnick are both winning as they lay their claims on M. Mills (who is losing his heart and 200,000 francs). But he takes it well, because the French are a gay people, fond of dancing and light wines.
And plastic bombs, too, although it's a wasp that Kendra Stearns sits on in Please Don't Walk around like that. Since a wasp-sting can be dangerous unless it is licked, Miss Stearns, playing the wife of an ambitious politician, asks this little service of him. When he refuses, she asks it of a political opponent, a servant, and finally a newspaper reporter who obliges. The look on the relieved heroine's face as the sting is drawn out provides a fitting climax for this very amusing scene.
A word on nudity in the Harvard Theater. I read in the paper yesterday that some girl in a play now at Loeb indicated that she was going to show her mammelles (you know what they are), and then they turned out to be balloons. Now Miss Searns is not nude at all: she shows a great deal of craning neck in a rather ugly chemise. Similarly Sandra Prutting reappears in A United Family dressed in a fur coat with nothing on underneath. But you don't know that; they expect you to believe it. Enough examples ... the point is that a new trend toward quasi-nudity has developed. It is dangerous, un-American, un-French, and frustrating.
A United Family, last on the agenda at Agassiz, is a wonderful play by France's finest poet, Jacques Prevert. It has a subtlety underneath its blatant satire, and John Beck, who directed it for horselaughs, wasn't fully successful. But his staging was fast and broad, and he deployed eight expressive actors, including Sam Abbott, Miss Prutting, Paul Schmidt, Fran Blakeslee and the ubiquitous Mills.
Beck and Maxwell gave an audience that wanted to laugh ample opportunity. Their French trio was well-chosen, well-acted, and well, delightful.