Monday, February 11, 2013

Thinking Cap Theatre: The Rover (3 reviews)

Thinking Cap Theatre opened its production of The Rover at Empire Stage on February 7, 2013.
A raucous 17th C. sex comedy by Aphra Behn Adapted & directed by Nicole Stodard.  "This ain't your great, great granny's 17th century comedy!"
Nicole Stodard directs a cast that includes Giordan Diaz, Mark Duncan, Lela Elam, Carey Hart, Mickey Jaiven, Yevgeniya Kats, Noah Levine, Desiree Mora, Emilie Paap, Theo Reyna, Nori Tecosky, and Scott Douglas Wilson.

Michelle F. Solomon reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
There’s more to Thinking Cap Theatre’s inventive The Rover than staging a 300-year-old play with oomph enough to keep a 21st century audience interested. What director Nicole Stodard... has done is to craft an inventive, ambitious and quite delicious offering of England’s first professional female playwright’s navel gazing study of the dating games people play. And watching Stodard’s adaptation of Aphra Behn’s The Rover proves that the battle of the sexes hasn’t changed much since 1677.
It is a large cast... but Stodard has reconfigured the small space to a three-quarter seating arrangement, therefore leaving room to create different levels through the middle of the small house. The limited mainstage area, surprisingly, never seems crowded...
Wilson owns this play and well he should. He makes the words his own, creating subtle nuances to deliver the language in a contemporary flow, plus he’s a master at never letting a double entendre go unnoticed. His Rover is drawn almost as if it’s a cartoon character, but never caricatured — part Jack Black, part Snagglepuss...
Elam (the casting of an Equity actor is the first time for TCT) is the other stand out as Angellica...
Tecosky has the most chemistry with Wilson and when the two are on stage together, it’s pure delight.
Duncan as Blunt will be an audience favorite because of the built-in buffoonery, but there are times that the clownish portrayal is forced and over-bloated. The same criticism goes for Gordon Diaz, who inserts a never really explained facial tick into his character of Don Antonio, which proves more of a distraction than something that adds to the characterization.

Fight choreography by Paul Homza adds to the overall punk picture of the play...
This is smart, elevated theater made palatable, but not pandering, to the masses. As Behn so succinctly said in her sequel to The Rover, “Variety is the soul of pleasure.” Thinking Cap Theatre’s production carries that torch with its era-hopping variety, classically modern soul, and as an evening of pure theatrical pleasure.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Were Ms. Behn able to time-travel to Fort Lauderdale to catch the new Thinking Cap Theatre production of her play, she would doubtless be astonished at the lusty, wildly comic contemporary sensibility that director Nicole Stodard and her sharp cast have brought to a 336-year-old sex comedy.

She might also be amazed at just how engaged a 21st century audience is by her 17th century tale of bawdy men and romance-hungry women.
Stodard has trimmed the script, and the actors sometimes toss in a contemporary word or phrase, but Thinking Cap honors and delivers The Rover . Giving a vintage sex comedy a hip, hot, entertaining makeover that makes sense is no small achievement. Yet that’s exactly what Stodard and the Thinking Cap crew have pulled off in their new production at Empire Stage.
The well-schooled acting company makes what might otherwise be difficult dialogue easy to follow. The bombastically charming Wilson, the magnetic and moving Elam, the saucy and seductive Tecosky, the earnest and funny Levine, the alluring Kats and the cleverly clownish Duncan, in particular, are deft at communicating the meaning in their characters’ words. The physical performance style helps too, as gestures and movement further illustrate meaning.

Staging a lesser-known, large-cast theatrical classic on a modest budget is a risky move for a small company. But with the intelligence and imagination Stodard has brought to The Rover, Thinking Cap’s risk pays off.
Roger Martin reviewed for miamiartzine:
If your lexicon includes lascivious, lecherous, lewd, libidinous, licentious and lustful you're not only stuck in the Ls but you're also going to laugh out loud pretty much all night long if you catch The Rover at Empire Stage.
Thinking Cap's artistic director, Nicole Stodard, cut the original from three hours down to two and didn't change a word. So that's the challenge: getting twelve of today's actors to mouth 300 year old dialogue and make it sound just fine to our eager ears. Did it work? Oh, you bet, but with the caveat that the acting talent covered a broad range, topped with the brilliance of Scott Douglas Wilson as The Rover.
Over the top, that vilified sin, is the order of the evening. And, by gosh, it's an admirable directing choice by Stodard, who incidentally is using the mounting of The Rover as part of the dissertation for her Ph.D.
This is not a static piece, it's groping and nuzzling, whipping and grimacing, arms flailing, feet tripping and as funny a picking of the short straw as you'll see on these stages. The fight scene, staged by Paul Homza, is an absolute delight.
Wilson's handling of the role is a triumph. Nothing escapes him, not a nuance, not a gesture, not a glance, not one of the limitless double entendres. His command of the language is exemplary.

Second banana is handily won by Mark Duncan as the country fool.
The Rover is an endlessly entertaining piece and although not all the cast reach the heights of Wilson and Duncan, each contributes more than enough to make me say: I could easily watch this again.
The Thinking Cap Theatre production of The Rover plays at Empire Stage through March 3, 2013.

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