Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Glorious Ones

Photo/Joan Marcus

I'm a sucker for commedia dell'arte: Lynn Ahrens could've written nothing more than the simple lazzis (sight gags) that John Kassir pantomimes as the flatulent Dottore or the deep-seated emotion of Natalie Venetia Belcon, as Columbina, and I would have cracked my way through this show. But with the addition of a subdued but rich score by Stephen Flaherty and the comic direction (and choreography) of Graciela Daniel, and thanks in no small part to the novel by Francine Prose from which this was adapted, The Glorious Ones is so much more than the crude "one hand on the crotch, one hand on the heart" that it sings about. Instead, it aspires to answer "What is life but the beauty of improvisation?" and seeks the heart of all artistic endeavors when the stubborn and narcissistic leader of the troupe, Flaminio Scala (Marc Kudisch), clashes with his surrogate son, the harlequin, Francesco Andreini (Jeremy Webb) over the presentation of their work. I couldn't say how historically accurate it all is, but the characters give a plausible rise and a real humanity to stock characters that generally just traipse around the stage with little thought or consequence to their pratfalls. Here, the falls are more serious, and they are well chronicled in the mournful "My Body Wasn't Why" or "I Was Here," just as they are earlier laughed about in the self-deprecating "The Comedy of Love" and foreboding "The Glorious Ones." Great art may love to fail, but it doesn't have to, and The Glorious Ones is a real hit.

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