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Theater review: 'Sganerelle' at City Garage

July 28, 2011 |  4:06 pm

City_Garage_Sganarelle-_Pic3-3689 When first produced almost 400 years ago, Moliere's one-act comedy, “Sganarelle, or the Imaginary Cuckold,” which concerns various lovers, wives and husbands who all mistakenly suspect one another of philandering, must have laid them in the aisles. 

From a modern-day context, the repetitive running gags of this early sex farce can be a bit wearying.  However, the true genius of “Sganarelle” -– or really any Moliere play -– lies in its mordant asides and aphorisms, witty societal observations as fresh today as when they were first penned.

Frédérique Michel and Charles Duncombe's world premiere translation/adaptation of the play, the first offering from City Garage in its new residency at Bergamot Station, preserves every soupçon of rich meaning and fun.

Textually, at least. Once on the boards, it's another story.

As always, director Michel tackles the text with imaginative boldness, while Duncombe's production design, though somewhat sparse, is certainly striking, especially his elaborate costumes.

But what could have been a pell-mell comical romp falls victim to a largely inexpert cast, which too frequently bungles Moliere's elegant language. 

Bo Roberts' Sganarelle, the cowardly husband who mistakenly believes his wife is unfaithful, has the right look of constipated suffering and frustration.  Yet Roberts stumbles over his lines, a deficit that may improve during the run.  The performers execute the twirling physicality of Michel's staging with few hitches.  If only the same dexterity could be applied to their line delivery, then this promising new adaptation could truly sing.

-- F. Kathleen Foley

“Sganarelle, or the Imaginary Cuckold,” City Garage, Track 16, Bldg. C1, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica.  8 p.m. Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays.  Ends Sept. 4.  $25.  (310) 319-9939.  Running time:  1 hour, 15 minutes.

Photo: Ann Stocking, Lena Kouyoumdjian, Bo Roberts: Credit: Paul Rubenstein.