Theater Review: "The Bungler" At A Noise Within
"The Bungler" is about a man, Lelie (Michael A. Newcomer) and his manservant, Mascarille (JD Cullum). Lelie, who is not exactly the sharpest spoon in the chandelier, is enamored of Celie (Emily Kosloski), a slave woman. Other variables in the romantic mess that is this play are the patriarchs of the town and newly-eschewed Hippolyte (Kate Maher), who, before Celie's arrival, had been pursued by both Lelie and Leandre (Kevin Stridham), who is also enamoured of Celie.. Add in a traveling band of gypsies, and things get delightfully chaotic!
Cullum, who was delightful in Antaeus' "The Malcontent" last spring, is equally wonderful here as the scheming Mascarille. Newcomer was aggravatingly spot-on as Lelie, Mascarille's bumbling foil—to the point that the audience actually groaned every time he came on stage, wondering how he could have possibly botched this near-perfect plan to attain Celie. The rest of the ensemble is also quite good, bringing Moliere's farce to life with surprising conviction.
Less convincing, however, were some of director Julia Rodriguez-Elliot's choices regarding the setting of the play. It's not ever made quite clear why the show seems to be set in a carnival. While some of it seems to be catering to the era in which the play was originally written and performed (the 1650s), there are some oddly anachronistic elements that are confounding. Also, while the sung interludes are nice, they, too, seem slightly out of place in the show. However, none of these elements seriously detract from the show; it remains overall, a very enjoyable experience.
Like many other old plays, "The Bungler" requires the audience's utmost attention at all times. If either the audience or the actors' attention lapses, the play can easily devolve into a mess of unintelligible couplets. Perseverance pays off, though, and these actors are good enough to keep the audience as rapt as they need to be.
John Iacovelli's set design makes good use of the space, and Ken Booth's lighting design adds quite nicely to the atmosphere of the show. While it is occasionally conspicuous, this works well with the theatrical nature of the show. Monica Lisa Sabedra's makeup design is also wonderful.
As a whole, A Noise Within's "The Bungler" is a jovial experience, though the play itself can be aggravatingly redundant. However, the cast does fantastic work, and it is genuinely fun to watch.
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