January 17th, 2010

La Loge


Although I've always loved G&S, before I started stepping out with Ellen in 1992 I'd never seen productions of anything but Mikado, Pirates, and Iolanthe (if you don't count running tech for Trial By Jury and being Cousin Hebe in Pinafore when I was in highschool), mostly Mikado.  Now, I have nothing against The Mikado, especially as atomized in Topsy Turvey, but it's not the only thing the boys wrote.  I longed for Patience, for The Sorcerer, and above all, for Ruddigore, because I have an unabashed fondness for melodrama and Bad Baronets and talking portraits, and Ellen kept quoting bits of it.

She took me to a Harvard student production in Boston, and despite the extreme youth of the portrait gallery and Sir Ruthven's wandering pitch, it lived up to all my expectations--particularly Mad Margaret, who was even funnier doing her Basingstoke shtick than in her mad scene, which was hilarious.  We saw it again when we went to visit Ellen's nephews at Camp Interlochen, with a chorus of upwards of 30 Professional Bridesmaids and Bucks and Blades and several centuries worth of Bad Baronets.  We were sitting way in the back of a huge auditorium, it was hard to hear, and I was cold, but it was still enchanting.

Despite partial view seats to the extreme right, so was last night.  And oh, so much better costumed and sung than what I'd seen before.  I cannot speak to the scenery, since mostly we couldn't see it (which is a pity, since the notes said they were inspired by the work of Edward Gorey), but luckily G&S directing seems to favor clumping actors downstage center, so we missed very little of the action except for Mad Margaret's first entrance (which must have been a doozy, since the audience was roaring with laughter) and the first glimpse of the portraits coming alive.  The directors are fans of old-fashioned melodrama, and a lot of the physical comedy were attitudes and poses familiar to me from from theatrical etchings and what little silent film I've seen.  Mostly, they didn't even need to be heightened for comic effect:  these days, a white hand held to the brow, clasped hands uplifted, a cloak tossed over a shoulder are comic in themselves, even when played straight.   Watching David Macaluso as poor Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd, in Act II, trying to manage his cloak and his dark lantern while working on his villain's walk  and his evil laugh, was one of the funniest things I've ever seen--much funnier than Caitlin Burke as Mad Margaret, who was trying rather too hard and was encumbered by the ugliest costume and wig, poor woman, I've seen in many a day. 

Unfortunately for New York G&S fans, last night's Ruddigore was the penultimate performance of the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players G&S Fest 2010.  But they promise to be back next year.  And I shall be there, whatever they're doing.  Ellen wants to see Iolanthe again, and I've never seen Patience.  In the meantime, we shall be acquiring Topsy Turvey with all reasonable haste, and I'll be downloading "Cheerily Carols the Lark" and "When the Night Wind Howls" for when I need cheering.