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Theater review: 'The Marriage of Figaro' at City Garage

April 29, 2010 |  8:00 pm
400.City_Garage_Marriage-of-Figaro_pic4 A shrewd use of artifice as content distinguishes "The Marriage of Figaro" at City Garage. Frédérique Michel and Charles Duncombe's new adaptation of Pierre Beaumarchais' 1784 assault on the aristocracy, the source of Mozart's deathless opera, hits its arch marks from the opening prologue and continues thus thereafter.
The second in Beaumarchais' trilogy of Figaro plays – between "The Barber of Seville" and "The Guilty Mother" – "Marriage" savages class inequities (Louis XVI understandably banned it). Echoing Mozart librettist Lorenzo da Ponte, director Michel and designer Duncombe knowingly use the lunatic convolutions of farce to strike more profound cultural targets.
As ever, Figaro (Troy Dunn, never better) must learn from his betrothed Suzanne (delightfully unaffected Janae Burris) that Count Almaviva (David E. Frank, aptly smarmy) intends to exercise his droit du seigneur, the feudal custom wherein a nobleman could bed a servant bride before her wedding night.
How Figaro and Suzanne, in league with the long-suffering Countess (Cynthia Mance, having a field day), circumvent their dilemma is hardly Beaumarchais' only complication. Accordingly, Michel sends the stalwart cast, bedecked in Josephine Poinsot's droll costumes, pirouetting around Duncombe's spare rococo setting with calibrated panache.
Amelia Rose Blaire excels as adolescent Chérubin, whose requited attraction to the Countess does not hinder his wooing Suzanne's cousin Fanchette (wonderful Maria Christina Benthall). Rafael Clements gives gardener Antonio and judge Don Guzman a tickling urban edge. As Figaro's longstanding nemeses, Bo Roberts and Brennan Cipollone are amusingly old school, while Ann Colby Stocking is seriocomic intensity personified as marital claimant Marceline.
Though adroitly articulate, the text and execution are only nominally provocative, perhaps the most benign outing in City Garage's history, and sound designer Paul Rubenstein overuses Rossini's "Il Barbiere di Siviglia" at the expense of Mozart. Such quibbles are trivial against the deft accomplishments of this charming realization.

– David C. Nichols
"The Marriage of Figaro," City Garage, 1340 1/2 4th St. Alley, Santa Monica. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 5:30 p.m. Sundays.  Ends May 30. $25. Pay what you can on Sundays. (310) 319-9939. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.

Photo: David E. Frank and Janae Burris. Credit: Paul Rubenstein.