Christopher Talbot (C’23, left) as Octave, Lucius Atherton (C’23, center) as Leandre, and Finn Gallagher (C’21, right) as Scapin. Photo by Rob Mohr (C’22).
By Caroline Hoskins
Scapin is a play by Moliére that follows a servant, Scapin, as he schemes to help young Octave and Léandre be with their loves, Hyacenthe and Zerbinette. The obstacle in the way of the four lovers are the boys’ father Argante and Gerante. In Sewanee’s production of the play, the director (Prof. Pete Smith) decided to modernize the story through costumes and cultural references, causing the play to resonate with a modern audience.
Sewanee’s production of Scapin not only had the pressure of a normal theatre production, but the pressure of being the first Sewanee theatrical performance in the age of COVID-19. On the night of the performance, however, the audience almost forgot about the current pandemic due to the entertaining play before them. The cast of this play worked together perfectly to create a fun and comedic atmosphere. From the titular Scapin, to the smaller role of Carle, each cast member embodied their character in a way that made the play engrossing.
The comedic standout was the title character, Scapin. Actor, Finn Gallagher (C’21), not only possessed the ability to enhance scripted comedic moments, but also create comedy in mishaps that come with live theatre. At one point in the show, Gallagher dropped keys that were tossed to him, he made it into a joke by saying: “That’s why I do theatre, not sports.” In this moment, Gallagher was able to add comedy to an unintentional moment.
One of the most notable things about the play was the interpretation of Hyacenthe, one of the love interests. Before appearing on stage, she was described as a sexy character. When she finally entered, I was momentarily confused by the juvenile interpretation of a character said to be “sexy”. The youth of her character was definitely conveyed through her costuming which seemed to resemble Baby Spice from the Spice Girls. Because of this, the audience begins to understand both Hyacinthe and Octave, her love, as juvenile characters.
The set incorporated into the storytelling in an interesting way. Painted in specific colors, purple and teal, it reflected one of the two families. The colors blue and purple were used in the set and costumes much like blue and red are used in Romeo and Juliet. If you pay attention to these colors in the characters’ costumes, they even act as foreshadowing the end of the play.
Upon seeing the show two times, it was interesting to see how the audience affects the performance itself. On opening night, the audience was receptive, laughing at every joke. On Saturday night, however, the audience seemed a little less receptive to the show, causing the energy to feel lower than that of opening night. Despite a slow start, Saturday’s audience soon warmed to the show, causing the energy to rise as the show progressed.
Another notable aspect of the play was the insertion of modern phrases and ideas into a play that was written during the French Renaissance in 1671. With references ranging from West Side Story to the actor Nicholas Cage, this interpretation of Scapin did a good job of modernizing the material enough to engage a casual audience who may not be familiar with Renaissance language.
Overall, Sewanee’s production of Scapin was exceedingly well put together considering the obvious COVID-19 constraints. The theatre department and the student actors involved were successful in creating an entertaining distraction from a world of masks and hand sanitizer.