‘Fickle: A Fancy French Farce’
Through March 26
2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, Md.
Tickets begin at $45
“Fickle: A Fancy French Farce” probes what makes couples click. Sometimes it’s as simple as Cheez Whiz or as complicated as cash.
In the alliteratively titled, fun new work by Los Angeles-based playwright Meg Miroshnik (now making its world premiere at Olney Theatre Center), a young royal sets his sights on a young woman who’s set to be married to someone else. He’s got the good looks and the toys but will he get the girl?
First off, the scenic design is charming. Charlie Calvert provides a fancifully carved proscenium stage bookended by two small balconies exquisitely lit by Nancy Schertler and further enhanced by Roc Lee’s witty sound design. The blue, scalloped curtain rises to reveal a French (and fancy) castle where the play’s action unfolds. We first meet Silvia (Kathryn Tkel), a feisty peasant from a nearby village, bound to a luxe chair. She’s been kidnapped by the Prince (versatile out actor Christopher Dinolfo), and though impressed with the room’s riches including a one of a kind of pink crystal chandelier that hangs center stage, she is eager to be united with her betrothed Harlequin (Andy Reinhardt), a dim fellow villager with whom her loyalties lie — at least for now.
But the Prince’s desire hits a snag. His kingdom is ruled by an outsized book of intricate and arcane laws meticulously enforced by court advisor Trivelin (Marcus Kyd). The prince must marry a subject. But there’s a codicil. He can’t take her heart by force. She must give her heart to him willingly. Courtiers strategize a pleasing outcome with some unexpected results.
In fine farce fashion, identities are confused. It seems that Prince first met Silvia in the forest where was posing as a palace guardsman. He’s an avid thespian and enjoys immersing himself in meaty roles. He’s particularly fond of interpreting Robert De Niro’s famed Taxi Driver line: “You talkin’ to me?”
Buzzing around the court are two ambitious but very different sisters: Flaminia, (Alyssa Wilmoth Keegan) a workaholic advisor bucking for promotion, and saucy, dumb-as-a-fox Lisette (Tonya Beckman), who’s busy branding herself as a hot blonde beauty maven. At one point, Lisette instigates a little immersive theater involving a male audience member and beauty mark placement instruction. Beckman pulls it off winningly.
Eventually, Harlequin stumbles on the scene in search of his bride with whom he doesn’t actually get along. What he does like is the palace’s unceasing supply of good food, especially the vast selection of cheese. In fact, it’s a shared love for cheese that sparks a frisson between Harlequin and the ever efficient Flaminia. Similarly, Silvia is cozying up to the idea of painted nails and fancy gowns (impeccably designed by Helen Q. Huang, whose whimsical costumes combine the old and new with droll, Gallic flair).
Also on hand are the Lord (Mark Jaster), an amorous but accident prone old aristocrat who makes perfect quarry for a girl on the make, and a pair of gloved hands that elegantly pass props to actors from behind the curtain.
Staged by Eleanor Holdrige, the 90-minute “Fickle” moves at a fun-filled, fast pace. And the exceedingly likeable cast gives finely drawn comedic performances all around, truly.
Based on the play “La Double Inconstance” by French playwright Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de Marivaux, Miroshnik gives a quirky wildly anachronistic take on the 18th century playwright’s stodgier story. At turns clever and corny, “Fickle” is a delightful romp.