An eccentric `Figaro'; a stylish `Tango' The Marriage of Figaro Comedy by Pierre Augustin Beaumarchais, adapted and translated by Richard Nelson. Directed by Andrei Serban. Starring Anthony Heald, Dana Ivey, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Christopher Reeve.
New York — Gimmickry abounds in ``The Marriage of Figaro,'' at the Circle in the Square Theatre. Director Andrei Serban has decided that the rarely performed 18th-century Beaumarchais classic is a natural for a gagfest. This is hard on the actors, the audience, and most particularly on Beaumarchais. But no matter. The uninhibited Mr. Serban has taken his fun where he found it. And he has found it onstage, offstage, and in the aisles of the arena-style auditorium. ``The Marriage of Figaro'' is best known, of course, for the Mozart opera it inspired. The play itself is a comedy of intricate plottings, deceptions, disguises, surprise revelations, and the ultimate discoveries that set everything to rights. The wily Figaro (Anthony Heald) and the lovely Suzanne (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) are united in marriage. The philandering Count Almaviva (Christopher Reeve) and his forgiving Countess (Dana Ivey) are reconciled.
The Serban treatment of Richard Nelson's idiomatic adaptation/translation begins by placing the action somewhere in the present century, with such innovations in transport as an electric motorcar, skateboards, and roller skates. The actors, all clad in immaculate white for Act I -- a smashing feature of Beni Montresor's design -- behave rather in the fashion of players in an Italian comic movie. The fact that Beaumarchais (to skirt censorial complications) set the action in Spain doesn't really m atter. As an obvious holdover from an ancient regime, Almaviva is still bent on exercising his previously foregone ``right'' to seduce Suzanne and cuckold Figaro. Outwitted at last, he faces up to the error of his wicked ways.
Mr. Reeve plays Almaviva with a comically arrogant swagger and the wit, between tantrums, to perceive the ridiculousness of his posturing. Miss Ivey acts the Countess with a patrician hauteur softened by grace and good humor. As the principled Suzanne, Miss Mastrantonio can be both crisp and melting, a pretty combination for a comedy heroine. Mr. Heald's Figaro is a schemer for all occasions, although this fine comic actor is perhaps not fully at ease with the mercurial changes the part demands. He is p articularly effective in Figaro's sardonic, autobiographical soliloquy delivered in motion from the garden swing with which Serban has agitated the monologue.
Mozart gets into the act directly and indirectly. The overture to his opera provides the fitting accompaniment for the masquerade so crucial to the plot and so beautifully designed by Mr. Montresor. For a second Mozartian touch, Serban has cast Caitlin Clarke as Cherubino. In the opera, the role is sung by a soprano. But the Beaumarchais Cherubino is not a ``bitch's part'' in the traditional sense of the phrase. Whatever Serban's rationale, Miss Clarke gives a droll performance as the forlornly love-smi tten youth. She is also a whiz on roller skates. The company of good actors includes Louis Zorich (Dr. Bartholo), Carol Teitel (Marceline), James Cahill (Bazille), and Debbie Merrill (Fanchette).
Besides composing the tunes for the play's several songs, Richard Peaslee provides the musical and other sound effects that punctuate Serban's gags after the fashion of vaudeville and silent movies. (The audience mustn't be allowed to miss a joke.) While Serban's latest experiment with the classics may be less objectionable than his earlier travesty of Chekhov's ``The Cherry Orchard,'' his visually striking ``Marriage of Figaro'' is, to say the least, eccentric. Tango Argentino Theatrical extravaganza conceived, directed, and designed by Claudio Segovia and Hector Orezzoli. Choreography by Juan Carlos Copes.
A critical and popular success in its one-week stand at City Center last summer, ``Tango Argentino'' has returned to New York for a Broadway engagement at the Mark Hellinger Theatre. Claudio Segovia and Hector Orezzoli have concocted a super vaudeville show that offers a quick course in the ways and wiles of Argentina's national dance and the music that accompanies it. The assortment of tangos in various styles shares the two-part program with loudly amplified vocal solos and orchestral numbers fe aturing a quartet of bandoneonists (the bandoneon is a kind of concertina). The result might be called ``tangomania.''
Expertise in the finer points of the tango undoubtedly enhances appreciation of ``Tango Argentino.'' But the aim of this handsomely designed show is popular entertainment. Judged by the response of one preview audience, the creators and performers are right on target.
The dancing contingent features soloist Naanim Timoyko and seven marvelously matched couples whose glides, knee twists, torso twirlings, and lightning turns celebrate the innumerable possibilities of the tango. The dancers' traditional impassiveness of expression even gives way now and then to a slight smile or a comic touch. ``Tango Argentino'' has been stylishly choreographed by Juan Carlos Copes. The vocalists are Ra'ul Lavi'e, Jovita Luna, Elba Ber'on, and Alba Sol'is. Bandoneonist-composer-arranger
Luis Stazo leads the virtuosic onstage band. The extravangaza is scheduled to remain at the Hellinger through Nov. 10.