The Imaginary Beasts are such chameleons that whatever theater piece they tackle, you think they were destined for that form. I’m now convinced they’re French. Their delightful, magical, frothy production of Moliere’s (rarely-performed) second verse comedy, LOVERS’ QUARRELS (bouncing through April 19th) is a must see this spring.
Director Matthew Woods’ troupe of comedians (in the classic sense) is second to none. They handle the featherweight verse like jugglers, keeping it aloft even as they are turning somersaults. Richard Wilbur’s glorious translation fits the company’s physicality like hand and glove/or visa versa.
The delicious plot has lovers thinking they’ve been overthrown when they haven’t. Or someone thinks he’s in love with someone and he isn’t. Or rather he is but she’s disguised herself as a man. Hang it all. Plot doesn’t matter a whit. The romping and rousting is what will have you giggling non-stop.
What marvelous performances: William Schuller’s (totally unnecessary) depression is a thing of beauty. He cannot be comforted by logic. He slumps beneath an absurdly funneled hat (by Cotton Talbot-Minkin), aided and abetted by Amy Meyer’s wonderfully droll, likewise misinformed, servant. The objects of their affections are Erin Eva Butcher as a flighty, easily deluded young Lady and Beth Pearson as her highly emotional servant whose face contorts into the most expressive wail you will ever witness.
Bryan Bernfel holds royally forth as a Latin-prattling prelate whose sole purpose is to confound Joey C. Peletier as one of the two paters familias. (Sorry, that Latin bug is infectious, isn’t it?) It works. Peletier suffers magnificently. Melissa Walker is unrecognizable as the other feuding father whose son (a dashing Will Jobs) loves the wrong woman. The right woman (the charming Lynn R. Guerra) contorts herself into pretzels trying to attract the man without giving away her disguise.
Anneke Reich will try to explain all the fine points of the story but it’s Cameron M. Cronin in a tour de force as the son’s much maligned servant, who is Moliere’s mouthpiece: “Love’s an ass,” he tells us, “and he isn’t very smart.” Poor fellow, with the weight of the world on his shoulders (literally), he can’t seem to get out from under. And we profit, as the French would say, from his misery. We profit handsomely.