The advance notices were not misleading. The production of Patience which opened at Agassiz last night is an uninterrupted delectation and a conclusive bah to those niggards who tell us Patience is not top-drawer Gilbert and Sullivan.
Begin with the character Reginald Bunthorne, the fleshly poet." Those with a passion for retrospection may recognize here the warm, violet effusion of Oscar Wilde, whose first slight volume of poetry appeared at nearly the same time as the play, in 1881; those without such a passion may recognize friends first met at Advocate discussions of minor poets. No matter the disposition, Stephen Michaels, who plays this fiercely languid lack knee stoop shoulder will be recognized as an actor of surpassing talents. With reed wrists and cuffs that billow to set them off he prances--for God's sake prances, there has never been such prancing with a human leg--prances through two acts, two loves and onto a cheery celibacy. The subtitle of the opera, Bunthorne's Bride, is one of those jokes Mr. Gilbert was wont to play.
Danius Turek plays a second masterful creation, Archibald Grosvenor, taciturn lyric poet, indomitable narcissist: in short dear chorines, the single apple of your collective eye. Men do not care for him. Turek is limited by an approximately normal skeletal structure, forcing him to exploit the variety of stuffed poses of which he is capable. He charts the attitude of pomposity with a mathematical vigor, with glorious shamelessness impossible since Freud's tinkerings.
After these two successes of the parts is synonymous with the success of the actors. Myra Durkin is Patience, the maid who can't bother being effete because she has to milk cows. Her voice, her rich, perfectly controled voice is meant for more than small stages in close auditoriums. Her flat-footed progression across the boards is comedy. If, and forgive me for this fussy stipulation, only if Miss Durkin is off-stage what she is on, I should like to marry her. I might not have included this declaration in these columns but for a standing belief in the efficacy of the printed word.
Jacqueline Meily contributes such a measure of charm to the role of Lady Jane that one almost does not notice Gilbert's celebrated libel on old womandom. In this she is aided by composer Sullivan, who manages a special, though for him certainly not unique, lyricism when she performs. Sharon Dennis, Carolyn Firth, and Juliet Cunningham are all excellent as Rapturous Maidens, displaying a sense of ensemble which has thus far eluded a good many professional companies. The officers of the dragoon guards likewise observe each other on stage. Theirs is the comedy of loud plainmindedness, of just enough mugging at just the right pace. James Paul in particular commends himself as Lieut., the Duke of Dunstable.
There was throughout such splendid coordination between James Burt's stage direction and Vincent Canzoneri's work with the traditionally polished orchestra that any attempt to resolve the two and pick at each must be regarded as undialectic and moreover silly. The old criticism that Sullivan's score is a bit churchy is true but in this instance besides the point. The orchestra has a certain lightness, a brassiness of tone which deletes much of what is sentimental in the music.
Randall Darwall's set is physically and spiritually perfect. Straight birch trees, thin pillars. How Botticellian! How very Fra Angelican! All in front of an Italian blue sky, with actors in Charlotte H. Prince's costumes of slightly brash, Pre-Raphaelite color. An amygdalaceous show, Gilbert might say. A real peach.