Theater review: Scapin

  • Matt Hermes photo
From the July 19, 2012 edition

Wearing a white bowler hat and a perpetually mischievous grin, Todd Covert confidently fills the baggy trousers of the subversive servant Scapin in the farce of the same name. Those trousers were originally filled by Moliere himself in his 1671 comedy “Les Fourberies de Scapin” (“The Schemes of Scapin”). In 1996, modern clown Bill Irwin (collaborating with Mark O’Donnell) adapted it as “Scapin.”

In the New Players Theater production, Covert shares the witty banter and silly slapstick with Ralph Scott, who plays fellow servant Sylvestre. Together they plot to assist their young masters by bamboozling the youngsters’ wealthy fathers out of enough money to allow them to marry their impoverished beloveds.

Revealing a story via charades, mimicking a string of movie tough guys and portraying several faux foreigners out to steal the fathers’ fortunes, Scott exhibits a flair for flamboyance.

True to his name, Covert conceals his character’s intentions under a usually calm demeanor, allowing Scott to run wild with his considerable capacity for broad comedy. And true to his character’s name — Scapin was a standard role in Italian commedia dell’arte whose name derived from “scappare,” “to flee” — Covert leads the cast on a concluding chase that culminates in several weddings.

Fortunately, “Scapin” is more than mere foolishness and a vehicle for the encouragement of horrendous behavior in children of all ages. Director Tim Browning and the cast members make sure every clever word is clear, every pratfall is justified by the wispy plot and everyone has an anarchic good time.