Fantasy and Comedy in "Utopia"

It might be refreshing to look at recent financial crises and bailouts with some measure of hilarity. And that’s just what the new Harvard-Radcliffe Gilbert & Sullivan Players’ musical, “Utopia, Limited; or, The Flowers of Progress,” which opened in Agassiz Theatre last night and will run through April 7, aims to do.

Set on the island of Utopia, the production deals with the return of the King’s daughter, Zara, who, fresh out of Cambridge University, seeks to reform Utopia by imitating British-style institutions. Her efforts lead, however, to devastatingly farcical outcomes.

“Utopia, Limited” lampoons personalities that might be familiar to our recent economic crisis, placing them in a distinctly Victorian English setting. A diverse cast of unemployed doctors, lawyers, corrupt government officials, and shady corporations deliver the distinctive patter singing and panache of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta.

Though “Utopia, Limited” is lesser known than other Gilbert and Sullivan productions such as “The Pirates of Penzance,” Music Director Dylan J. Nagler14 says that the operetta offers a typical Gilbert and Sullivan plot draped in a satire of British culture. “In addition to a lot of fun music, it is surprisingly relevant to today’s world; there’s a lot of economic satire,” Nagler says.

Director C.E. Chiemeka Ezie 15, a Crimson Arts editor, acknowledges the play’s uniqueness. “There’s a little bit more caustic wit on the part of Gilbert than usual,” Ezie says. Veering away from the problematic suggestion of Western supremacy, Ezie has chosen to set Utopia in a fantastical cloud setting instead of an island, as called for in the script. “Some of the aspects of the show that assert cultural superiority might tend to distract people from actual point of show,” Ezie says. “The play is critiquing sententious, holier-than-thou attitudes.”

"Utopia" promises the trademark Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire of clipped consonants and pointed diction along with smatterings of barmy British satire. The musical is politically and socially charged, particularly when placed against the backdrop of America’s own capitalist tale.

Tags