NEW YORK (AP) — Figaro was a character who spoke truth to power, with sharp humor as his best weapon. Thanks to playwright Charles Morey, we're seeing his "Figaro-ian schemes" in a fresh light, in the Pearl Theatre Company's sprightly presentation of Morey's witty, irreverent send-up, titled simply, "Figaro."
Morey adapted his quip-laden script from the original 18th-century social comedy by Beaumarchais, "Le Mariage de Figaro." The Pearl's broadly comical production, the first in their new off-Broadway home on far west 42nd Street, opened Sunday night in a well-acted, richly-costumed and colorful staging.
The actors expertly dash and whirl around the stage, slamming doors and conspiring at cross-purposes, sometimes hiding in plain sight and, of course, eavesdropping at crucial moments while offering winks and asides to the audience.
Beaumarchais was famous for mocking the wealthy and privileged, often using wily servants to make the aristocrats appear foolish and easily manipulated. Scheming staffers are represented in "Figaro" by the title hero, (a jovially vigorous, engaging enactment by Sean McNall) and his quick-witted fiancee, lady's maid Suzanne (played with confident bemusement and poise by Jolly Abraham.)
Morey has peppered traditional dialogue with interjections of modern humor, neatly balanced by director Hal Brooks' keen eye for farcical takes, both verbal and physical. Musing about a dark moment in his past, Figaro recalls, "The only way out was to join them and become a banker, a lawyer or a stockbroker. I took the only honorable path and became a thief."
Arrogant, philandering Count Almaviva (Chris Mixon, grotesquely made-up and pompously self-satisfied) determines to have his way with the bride-to-be of his servant, Figaro, on their wedding day, or else he will ban the wedding. In one of many self-referential witticisms, Figaro bitterly recalls how he helped the Count win his own wife, Rosina, saying "I'll tell you it was pretty clever. You see... Ahhh, it would take an Italian Opera to describe it."
Joey Parsons is statuesque and commanding as Countess Rosina, sympathetic to the servants' plight and fired up for revenge on her unfaithful husband. Parsons is comedically astute, fluttering her long arms like swan's wings as she airily comments on each new hare-brained plot to defeat the Count with, "What could possibly go wrong?"
Ben Charles is sweetly coy as naive, cross-dressing Cherubin, and Dan Daily and Robin Leslie Brown are maturely effective as a pair of spoiled aristocrats who will figure in the entwinement of various preposterous schemes. Brad Heberlee capably handles three essential roles, and Tiffany Villarin flits around bug-eyed as dim-witted, adorable Fanchette.
This "Figaro" is gleeful fun, and signals an auspicious start to The Pearl's 29th season of presenting great plays from the classical repertory.