Play Review | ‘Scapin’ in Vaudeville Fun for YSU Theatre

By J.E. Ballantyne Jr.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, otherwise known as the French playwright Moliere, was known for his comedies. He penned many notable plays such as “The Miser,” and “The School for Wives.” But one of his lesser known efforts is “Scapin the Schemer.” Originally penned in 1671, the play has been adapted by Bill Irwin and Mark O’Donnell into simply, “Scapin.”

With a heavy vaudeville theme to it, “Scapin” opened this weekend at Youngstown State University as the second show of the current season.

The plot follows Scapin, a servant to Leander. Scapin is known as a schemer and teller of tales and is enlisted to help in the affairs of Octave and Leander as both men have fallen in love with penniless, undesirable mates. This provides the major ingredient for not only a farce but a farce with all of the flair of old vaudeville.

Helming the main role of Scapin is Lauren Ladd. Ladd has spirit, spunk, and endless energy in a role that keeps her on stage constantly from beginning to end. Although cast in a non-traditional sense, since the role is a male character, Ladd, for the most part, is up to the challenge. Her rapid banter and vaudeville schtick serve her well as Scapin connives to aid Octave and Leander.

With each move he makes, however, he gets himself deeper into a more complicated mess than when he started. Ladd moves exceedingly well around the stage and her facial expressions convey a litany of thoughts and schemes. Wearing clownish make-up aided in the portrayal and communication of his/her inner.most thoughts and intentions.

As good as Ladd was, however, she was thwarted by a couple of things. First, no body mikes were used, only stage mics, and when dialogue got confidential and quiet it was difficult to catch many things she said. Secondly, due to the non-traditional casting, I found myself having to re-connect numerous times to the fact that she was supposed to be a male character.

Although Ladd does well throughout, she shows considerable versatility at the end of Act I when Scapin acts out a ruse of kidnapping involving foreigners and ransom.

Similar problems popped up with Lex McCaughtry, who portrayed Sylvestre, as existed with Ladd. Although McCaughtry was good, I never really bought the character despite the fact that McCaughtry turned in a good performance.

Octave, son of Argante, who Scapin is charged to help, is played by Nicholas Figiel. Figiel gives a larger- than-life performance with a robust approach to the character. His over the top lamentations in the first scene not only convey his desperation but are in true over-done vaudeville style. Whenever he is on stage he is definite competition to Ladd’s Scapin.

Leander, the other love stricken son of Geronte, is strongly played by Cyrus Dzikowski. Again, the key ingredient for Dzikowski is the over the top, vaudevillian schtick. And he does it very well. This role tends to be a bit more physical than some of the others and Dzikowski handles it to perfection.

Both fathers to the lovelorn sons are played by Aidan Holderfield (Argante) and Gunnar Carwile (Geronte). Both score high marks in both the characterization and comedy timing categories. Just the height difference alone between the two, suggested noted vaudevillian comedy acts from that golden age.

The love interests played by Natalie Horvath (Hyacinth) and Natalie Ciccone (Zerbinette) were well cast. But again, the absence of body mics made much of their dialogue difficult to follow.

Begad Farid, who played Nerine, a servant was hilariously portrayed, if from no other angle than his physical stature. But he played the character almost deadpan which added to the comedy.

Anthony Mudryk and Ben Schatzel play two Gendarmes who pop in and out and provide an almost Keystone Kops flavor with their antics.

Torrance Bajuszik has a unique role in the show as George, the piano player. Bajuszik has many responsibilities in the show from playing the piano at stage right to holding up cue cards for the audience to facial reactions to the proceedings on stage. She adds an interesting element to the show.

Director Todd Dicken has put together a fun evening of theater with a show that few people have seen or are familiar with. The adaptation using the vaudeville background adds an extra layer of fun and humor that the audience can really get into.

The vaudeville bits that Dicken recreated for the show are endless and are very well executed by a cast of actors very far removed from the vaudeville scene. The cast should be proud of their work and especially the polish and smoothness of all of those routines. And what is a farce without a chase and doors flying open and closed? Again, well executed and a great way to add some flair and fun to the production.

Dicken also designed the set which is also, you guessed it, in vaudeville style. The two houses on stage are flat and painted in simple colors and had that traditional vaudeville look. Costumes, likewise, by Katherine Garlick were exceedingly well done with vaudeville flair and a lot of color and splash.

“Scapin” is a fun evening where you can sit back, relax, and enjoy a show that doesn’t take much inner thought, if any, to have a good time. The YSU cast is obviously having a great time with this show. Go and see it, you will also.

“Scapin” will continue Nov. 17, 18 at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 12, 19 at 2 p.m.

Pictured at top: Nicholas Figiel, Lauren Ladd and Natalie Horvath are part of the cast of “Scapin.”

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