2nd Story Theatre sets up shop in the courtroom of the Bristol Statehouse to give us two French comedies by Moliere and Jean Racine. The clever set by Trevor Elliott is sort of a courtyard in the old courthouse, with enough doors and windows to meet the demands of the farcical presentations.
The fine set of actors, led by Jim Sullivan in the Moliere and Tom Roberts in the Racine, have caught the spirit of the 17th century authors, mixing their clever lines and physical humor to give us a fun night of light theatre.
I liked the Moliere better. He is a master of comedy, while Racine is best known for his tragedies and is less accessible and not as funny. Director Ed Shea said that the actors felt a certain hillbilly twang in Moliere’s “The Doctor in Spite of Himself” and used it to their advantage.
Jim Sullivan is hilarious as Sganarelle, the simple-minded man who is constantly fighting with his wife (Liz Hallenbeck). She gets even with him by telling a pair of country bumpkins that he is a doctor. They bring him to the home of a young lady who has “lost her tongue,” to which he replies, “Don’t look at me; I ain’t got it.” (That’s Moliere, folks.) She is only pretending to be dumb to avoid an arranged marriage. The plot thickens. The “doctor” cures her. Love conquers all.
Sound silly? It is, but it is the kind of silliness only Moliere can get away with. Sullivan makes a perfect Sganarelle, using his entire being to satirize the medical profession.
After intermission it is Racine’s turn to take pot shots at lawyers. Tom Roberts plays Nigaud, a bumbling, senile judge who has gone off the deep end in Racine’s “The Suitors.” Stealing from Aristophones, he has written a tongue-in-cheek attack on lawyers, litigants and judges, with the script in a fast-paced rhyme.
“What is life without litigation?” asks the countess (Paula Faber), who is in a legal battle with Chicanneau (F. William Oakes), father of a girl who is in love with the judge’s son. There’s a bit of hanky panky going on and things get a bit out of control before this one is resolved.
There’s a lawsuit involving a dog eating a capon, with the star of the play being a cuddly little pup that on press night added his one line to the drama.
Roberts has added some additional verse to the evening, while Sullivan makes a hysterical transition from one play to the other. They all add a great epilogue to an enjoyable evening.
The “Double Dose of Laughter” is at the Bristol State House, 240 High St. in the center of Bristol, through Dec. 18. Call 247-4200 for tickets, which are priced at $25.