For a brief explanation of these plays, see yesterday’s post.
The Marriage of Figaro is set three years after The Barber of Seville. [It must be said that the promotional material said they could be seen in any order, but a lot from Barber is referenced in Marriage and since it is set three years later, it really does behoove you to see Barber first]. The situation is interesting: Count Almaviva and Rosine are still married, although the Count is sleeping around and the Countess is despondent (so much for that rush of first love). But the main plot concerns Figaro.
Figaro is living with them (as Almaviva’s right hand man) and is set to marry the Countess’ Lady in Waiting, Suzanne. Figaro is gloriously happy, as is Suzanne. And they cannot wait to get married. So, unlike the previous play, there are no shenanigans trying to get them together behind the back of someone else. The shenanigans are of a slightly different sort.
For Suzanne reveals to Figaro that the reason the Count has given them this glorious space in the chateau–which is but mere feet away from the Count’s private room–is that he plans to deflower Suzanne on the night of her wedding to Figaro. This was, apparently, the Count’s privilege at the time. Although Count Almaviva ended that policy when he married Rosine. But he seems ready to reinstate it now.
Figaro doesn’t believe it at first, but is soon convinced. The Count wants to meet Rosine in the garden on her wedding night. And so she and Figaro (with the help of Rosine) decide to hatch a plot. And that’s just one of many plots in this sequel which is much more complicated, has a much bigger cast and pushes three hours in length.
This play is not quite as funny as Barber (which had me guffawing), at least up front. In truth, Figaro is the funniest character and he’s not present for a lot of the setup. Rather, we see a lot of Suzanne and a young page named Chrubin. He is after any woman he can get his hands on, whether it be the Countess (his true desire whom he lusts after), or Suzanne with whom he confides his love of the Countess but also wouldn’t mind copping a feel from time to time (the actress playing Cherubin was hilarious with wonderful physical gestures), and even Fanchette, an age appropriate girl who rather fancies him as well.
But the Count has caught Cherubin looking at the Countess. And has caught him with Fanchette (while the Count was about to “have” her himself), so he is sending the young page away. But when it turns out Cherubin is going to be sent into the military, they all fear for his life and encourage him to stick around without the Count knowing. (So that’s subplot two).
Rosine wants to get even with the Count so she plans a surprise for him (that’s subplot three).
Marcelline, who was a minor character in the first play, gets a major role when we learn that she wants to marry Figaro as well–she has been looking for a husband all her life and has got him in a contract that says he will marry her. (subplot four) This involves a whole courtroom scene which is probably the funniest section in the entire play.
Bazile (who was in Barber) also gets a subplot (#5) because he claims to want to marry Marcelline–with a potential courtroom scene as well.
And there’s a few other minor plot threads woven in as well. In other words, there’s a lot going on. The cast is twice as big as well, with lots of incidental characters (and a few very funny comic relief characters).
Whereas Barber was a bit more wordplay intensive, this one was much more slapstick intensive. There were lots of scenes of people hiding in closets and under beds as well as cross dressing and mistaken identity and even jumping out a window. Again, it was like a modern sequel in which everything was bigger.
And yet there was a delightful amount of wordplay as well. The courtroom scene was hilarious and in addition to having a wonderfully comical judge (he and Figaro have a hilarious discussion), there is some very very funny wordplay about the nature of the contract and the decision if the word is “et” (and) vs. “ou” (or)–meaning Figaro pays the money AND marries Marcelline or Figaro pays the money OR married Marcelline. The amount of fun they had with the scene was tremendous and we were cracking up. Add to that the bumbling judge and an ink blot and it was wonderful comedy.
This play also spoke to the role of women in society quite a lot. In Barber, the play addressed the role of servants, but this time the oppressed life of women came out in a great speech by Marcelline. She decries how women are treated like a child by men until they do something wrong at which time they are punished like an adult. It was a lengthy speech and quite powerful. And also, Suzanne was a wonderfully strong character, as was Fanchette (in a minor role). Even Rosine, who is mostly confined to her room, gets to enact some revenge (the fact that Almaviva was treating Rosine just as the Bartholo did in the first book is also noted).
And speaking of lengthy speeches, Adam Green, as Figaro blew us both away. (The entire cast in both performances was stellar and I hate to single anyone out, but Green really gave a tour de force both nights). He was Figaro in both plays and in each one he had a very very lengthy monologue. Neither one was particularly easy, as each was convoluted and full of big, uncommon words, series of lists and challenging ideas. And each went on for several minutes (the Marriage one in particular is about 4 pages in one version of the translation and covers Figaro’s entire history as well as summarizing events in the previous play and this play as well as his thoughts on women and jealousy). And he was perfect in both of them. Even more impressive is that they alternated plays each night so he had this huge monologue each night. Wow.
Although I have to admit the placement of Marriage’s monologue was a little unfortunate. It comes just as the final major action of the play is about to commence–it rather blocks the flow of the story, even though it is interesting.
The end of the play returns to some more slapstick and some very very funny sequences. I have to admit there may have been one or two subplots that I got a little confused by, but that didn’t matter because it was a lot of fun and there were certainly a lot of guffaws as well.
I’m a little surprised that these plays aren’t as well known as they are very funny and fit in well with a slapstick/PG-13 kind of audience.
Incidentally, I was looking up a translation of the play for this post and I think that Stephen Wadsworth’s (who also directed) was far superior–he played up the humor and even seems to have adapted in a way to make the funny scenes even funnier. Very cool indeed.
When the play was over, as we all applauded, Figaro settled us down and then the entire cast performed a staggeringly complicated dance routine. It was strange and wonderful. And just one more thing this cast had to memorize. It was a nice little touch to end the show. And as you can see from this picture, the costumes were once again magnificent (even if the wigs were far less insanely funny).
I didn’t look up the cast for yesterday’s post because I feared a spoiler (and indeed, I did get one when i saw that the Countess was married in the second story). But to give them all credit, here they are: (Everyone who was in Barber also performed in Marriage, I’ve highlighted those who performed the same role in both):
Barber of Seville Cast Neal Bledsoe: Count Almaviva, Cody Buege: Constable, Frank Corrado: LeBébé/Alcade, Burton Curtis: Engarde/Notary, Cameron Folmar: Bazile, Adam Green: Figaro, David Andrew Laws: Constable, Naomi O’Connell: Rosine, Jeanne Paulsen: Marceline, Derek Smith: Bartolo
Marriage of Figaro Cast Neal Bledsoe: Count Almaviva, Cody Buege: Gripe-Soleil /Usher, Frank Corrado* Brid’oison, Burton Curtis: Antonio, Cameron Folmar* Bazile, Adam Green: Figaro, Betsy Hogg: Fanchette, Maggie Lacey: Suzanne, David Andrew Laws: Pedrillo, Naomi O’Connell: Rosine the Countess Almaviva, Jeanne Paulsen: Marceline, Larry Paulsen* Doublehands, Derek Smith: Bartolo, Magan Wiles: Chérubin.