Sly servants, slumming sons

Moliere's classic "Scapin" outlines the perils of inter-class romances.

Greg Corradini

Under the rigors of the University’s Bachelor of Fine Arts actor training program, Jonas Goslow, a University junior, has transformed himself from a human to an academic automaton to an old Italian miser named Geronte.

The BFA actor training program is an extension of a partnership between the University and the Guthrie Theater that has lasted over 40 years.

The program, which began in 2000, offers selected University theater undergraduates intensive actor training with the artistic staff at the University and the Guthrie. The results of their hard work are showcased throughout the academic year. This weekend the junior class stages Moliere’s comedy “Scapin,” a wild romp about a servant’s scathing wit.

In addition to the normal College of Liberal Arts requirements and major classes, students in the program have afternoon studio sessions in voice, movement and acting. Goslow points out that developing a mature acting aesthetic entails an arduous workload.

“In the height of the pressure and the work, in a lot of ways, you become an automaton. You make a commitment and you just do it, you can’t let your vices get in the way. And sometimes you become an automaton and the machine dies,” Goslow said.

However, this level of dedication is just what the material demands. Lifted from the annals of 16th century Italian farces, “Scapin” is a story of identity swaps, star-crossed lovers and clowns queering their master’s plans.

Octave (Adam Yazbeck), the son of Argante (Claudia Vazquez), and Leander (Kelsey Nash), son of Geronte, have fallen in love with poor and destitute waifs. Behind their fathers’ backs, they each marry their respective sweetheart.

Both men of wealth, enterprise and above all disdainful pride, the fathers discover their sons’ slumming and plot against the marriages.

But the farcical ball doesn’t start rollicking until Ocatve and Leander convince Scapin (Wayne Wilson), Leander’s knavish servant, to assist them. In resolving this conflict, Scapin uses many fallacious arguments and diabolical switcheroos.

Scapin’s villainy and plot interruptions are standard practice in Moliere’s plays. But if handled wrong, the clownishness can detract from the overall production.

“The characters are farcical and the plot is very predictable. I know some people had to sort of adjust their characters midway through rehearsals. Sometimes the characters in “Scapin” go to ridiculous points, and you have to reign it back or completely change your concept on the character,” Goslow said.

This new perspective, Goslow stresses, was the actors’ ability to explore the characters’ humanity beyond their one dimensionality.

“I feel I have pulled (Geronte) in a lot from the mean old bastard father that he is. If you approach this character thinking about playing those aspects then you are going to have a one-sided character and show. So what I am trying to find is what is magnetic and endearing, and what it is that the audience can like about Geronte,” Goslow said.