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Theater review: 'The Bungler' at A Noise Within

April 9, 2012 | 12:30 pm

'The Bungler' at A Noise Within

Just think of “The Bungler” as a bromance in brocade. A Noise Within’s fluid, effervescent staging of Molière’s 1655 comedy of mishaps feels like a hybrid of “Two and a Half Men” and Judd Apatow’s stoner comedies. Two guys. One’s clueless. And the hot girl is out of reach.

Lélie (Michael A. Newcomer), our Seth Rogen stand-in, falls head over ribboned heels for Célie (Emily Kosloski), the slim-shouldered chattel of grumpy old Trufaldin (William Dennis Hunt). Lélie enlists his ever-resourceful servant, Mascarille (the excellent JD Cullum) in the quest for Célie, then manages to hinder his wingman’s efforts at every (and I mean every) turn.

This sitcom-worthy premise spins into something buoyant and diverting in director Julia Rodriguez-Elliott’s stylish (and stylistically coherent) production. From the center of John Iacovelli’s set, colored lights stretch out over the audience, and a circus mood pervades.

Before the show begins, we watch the players lounge in upstage dressing booths, applying their makeup and chanting vocal warm-ups. It’s a smart way to get us in the Molière mood; from the get-go, Rodriguez-Elliott and her cast carve out sharp comic silhouettes, yet each character choice is specific, grounding the action in something recognizably human.

Utterly at ease with Richard Wilbur’s nimble translation, Cullum drives the evening. He's an exasperated ringmaster wrangling everyone from the aptly daft Newcomer to Lélie's father, Pandolfe (Mitchell Edmonds), who has a fantastic gag with an invisible dog leash. Composer David O’s percussive songs and the sumptuous costumes and wigs (courtesy of Angela Balogh Calin, Kellsy MacKilligan and Monica Lisa Sabedra) add to the fanciful vibe.

“The Bungler” trips into spring, equal parts pratfall and dopey grin.   


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“The Bungler,” A Noise Within, 3352 Foothill Blvd, Pasadena. See website for performance schedule. Ends May 27. $42-$46. Contact: (626) 356-3100, ext. 1 or Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes.

Photo:  JD Cullum, left, and Michael A. Newcomer are seen with the masked ensemble of 'The Bungler' at A Noise Within. Credit: Craig Schwartz