(E)scapining

On Stage

Scapine

Directed by Luke Fleckenstein

At Adams House JCR tonight and tomorrow

YOU'RE STUDYING for next week's midterms, debating the value of a college education when, suddenly, you slam down last month's reserve reading, unable to carry on. Brain-fry has set in. You long to get away, maybe just for an hour or two, to forget the fact that living hell is just around the corner. You wander aimlessly up Plympton Street, mumbling something about Beowulf and macroeconomics, when you spot Adams House. If you're smart, you'll go in and see Scapine, a charming study break and timely cure for the mid-term blues. If not, it'll be another Store 24 night for you.

In customary Moliere style, Scapine is a romantic farce which pokes fun at the middle class. Octavio (Jon Blackstone) and Leander (Gintaras Valiulis), two wealthy young men, want to marry women considered unsuitable by their stuffy parents, Argante (Donal Logue) and Geronte (Celia Wren). They enlist the help of the mischievous Scapine (Maria Troy), a cunning, appealing servant.

After many tricks and turns of the plot, she succeeds in uniting Octavio and Leander with their beloved Hyacintha (Martha Redding) and Zerbinetta (Valerie Beck), as well as in bending every member of the educated class to her will.

The message in Scapine is not terribly profound. Moliere draws a harsh comic picture of the bourgeoisie, obsessed with money and appearances, yet gullible and foolish. Octavio and Leander, dependent upon their parents' fortunes, are too cowardly to follow their hearts. Argante and Geronte, mean and suspicious, cling so tightly to their purses that their children are relegated to a subordinate position in their lives. Only Scapine lives a life of pleasure, controlling the rich through her clever schemes.

Most of the performances in Scapine are well-drawn exaggerations, as well they should be. Kerry Osborne, as Scapine's fellow servant, is particularly funny. Disguised as Hyacintha's vengeful brother, he works himself into a frenzied mock duel which is a standout. Valerie Beck is likewise sweet and charming.

Scapine maintains a high level of energy and loudness, with little variation. At times, the fever pitch becomes tiresome, and some range of pace and noise level would be appreciated.

The setting of the play is also unclear. The mixture of accents and costumes suggestive of various periods leaves some doubt as to whether we're in 18th-century France or 20th-century America.

But these criticisms are minor and don't stop Scapine from being a funny and absorbing play. It's an exhilarating way to relieve some tension, so that, maybe when you return to Beowulf and macroeconomics, they won't seem quite so bad.