Mayumi Yoshida and Patrick Spencer in the United Players production of The Marriage of Figaro.
Mayumi Yoshida and Patrick Spencer in the United Players production of The Marriage of Figaro.

It may not be as revolutionary as when it first premiered in 18th century France, but Adam Henderson’s adaptation of Pierre Augustin de Beaumarchais’s The Marriage of Figaro is sometimes so well-crafted that you forget how subversive it once was, and simply go on for the ridiculously funny ride.

[pullquote]It is difficult to take your eyes off Jackie Minns as Marcelina  who helps elevate every scene in which she appears.[/pullquote]The play that spawned the more famous opera, The Marriage of Figaro is all about excess and Henderson not only embraces that excess with his adaptation, he gives it a great big old bear hug through his direction as well.

On the surface the plot seems pretty straight-forward: as Count Almaviva grows bored with his wife Rosine he sets his eyes on his man-servant Figaro’s betrothed, Suzanna. Of course in Beaumarchais’s world, and by extension Henderson, nothing is quite as simple as secrets are revealed, mistaken identities abound and the farce is ramped up full force.

But it does take some time for the farce to reach its peak and it is inconsistent. The most surprising moment comes with a glorious opening to act two, which is so much fun and over-the-top silliness that it makes you realize the potential of the proceeding hour. There are other moments of equal satisfaction throughout, especially in any scene that included Jackie Minns as the aging spinster Marcelina, but for all its peaks there are just as many valleys. For example, Henderson’s nods to Mozart’s opera are at times are clever and exciting, but others feel flat. The stomping of feet when characters are excited accentuates the dialogue, but the flamenco never quite burns with the necessary passion.

Patrick Spencer brings a suitably handsome and bold take to the man in the title role, Mayumi Yoshida as his wife-to-be is a fine accomplice and Chris Robson brings a surprising layer of charm and philandering buffoon to his Count. It is difficult to take your eyes off Jackie Minns who helps elevate every scene in which she appears. Minns at times finds her match in Seth G. Little as Dr Bartholio who work well off each other. David C Jones plays the dual roles of gardener and judge with comic conviction; be sure to watch carefully during the night gazebo scene as he manages to play both at the same time.

On the other side of the equation, Sarah Harrison’s vapid Fanchette doesn’t go quite as far as she could and there was a woodenness to David Secunda’s Bazile. Dexter van der Schyff appears to be over his head in the role of Cherubino.

It is a nice looking production with Chanel McCartney’s luscious costumes and John R. Taylor’s set full of rich flowing colours that shimmer beautifully under the lights from Randy Poulis.

The moments of brilliance in this production are at times breathtaking, but like a good jolt of espresso those effects are not long lasting.

The Marriage of Figaro. By Pierre-Augustin de Beaumarchais. Adapted and directed by Adam Henderson. A United Players of Vancouver Theatre Company production. On stage at the Jericho Arts Centre through June 29.  Visit http://unitedplayers.com for tickets and information.

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