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Home / Neighborhood / San Gabriel Valley / Pasadena Independent / Figaro: An Old Tale for Today’s Common Man

Figaro: An Old Tale for Today’s Common Man

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By Nathaniel Cayanan

Throughout time, there have been works of art that somehow find relevance centuries after their conception. One need only look to Victor Hugo or Shakespeare, whose works are consistently translated for generations of audiences, to make us wonder whether they looked into some sort of crystal ball as they sat at their desks writing their timeless tales. With today’s social concerns about class warfare and the diminishing middle class, the same timelessness can be found in “Figaro,” the new production at Pasadena’s A Noise Within Theatre.
Loosely translated from Pierre Beaumarchais’ 1778 French stage play “Le Mariage de Figaro,” the Charles Morey adaptation follows Figaro, a valet to Count Almaviva who intends to abuse his power to bed Figaro’s fiancé, Suzanne, on the eve of their wedding. As the 1778 version did at the dawn of the French Revolution, Morey’s adaptation comments on contemporary social troubles such as class and privilege and even feminist issues, all while utilizing humor. Morey describes it as a “meta-theatrical approach,” with self-referential one-liners, to make it accessible to today’s audience.
Very few times throughout, the play delves into comical bits in the tradition of Abbot and Costello or the Marx Brothers that feel tired and may fall flat on the audience’s ears. However, it redeems itself tenfold with a cast that brings enthusiasm and energy to characters who are quirky, fun and can be empathized with, such as Countess Almaviva, played masterfully by Elyse Mirto, who bemoans that the count, charmingly played by Andrew Ross Wynn, has lost interest in her after several years of marriage.
Perhaps the most intriguing of all the performances is that of Figaro himself, played by Jeremy Guskin. In his lively debut for the theatre company, Guskin exhumes a cartoonish aura that, in the wrong hands, can very easily overwhelm the audience, yet Guskin finds a good sense of equilibrium; balancing his character’s wit and his relatability, especially with his monumental speech in the fifth act in which he philosophizes about the selfishness of a powerful ruling class and laments that he, despite being clever, smart and loyal to the count, can never seem to earn half as much as those of great privilege.
Admittedly, some may find some of the creative choices a little off-putting, such as sunglasses and shoes that suspiciously look like Converses which feel distractingly anachronistic—even if intentional—as well as some character quirks, such as a man with a Jamaican accent and a stuttering judge who overextends his gag. Nevertheless, the play is fun, at times extremely profound, and overall an exhibition of great acting talent.
Figaro will play to May 10th at A Noise Within Theatre, located at 3352 E Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91107. Tickets available at the box office, on the web at aNoiseWithin.org, or by calling (626) 356-3100. Dates and times: March 14 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., April 4 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., April 5 at 4 p.m., April 9 at 7:30 p.m., April 10 at 8 p.m., April 19 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., April 30 at 7:30 p.m., May 1 at 8 p.m., and closing night May 10 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

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