By the time an actual red-nosed clown pops up halfway through “Scapin,” it feels redundant because the whole show has been such inspired, silly fun.
The brisk, high-energy Molière comedy is, as I believe the French say, a hoot. Sarah Agnew plays the title rascal, enlisted by two sets of lovers in their efforts to dupe their parents, who have planned other matches for their offspring. With all the double-casting and double-crossing, things get convoluted enough that new Ten Thousand Things artistic director Marcela Lorca felt the need to introduce the show with a plot summary, but the thrust of the evening is quite simple: Love wins.
Molière’s classic provides the frame for TTT’s “Scapin” but director/adapter Randy Reyes and the cast have reworked it to include balloon animals, ironic psychobabble and references to “Cops,” the Clapper, Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Something,” “The Shining,” “Who’s the Boss” and others I’m sure I missed. As Kimberly Richardson, playing one of the imperious parents, teeters around on heels that look like five-inch-tall Henry Moore sculptures and strikes one broken-doll pose after another, it’s possible her entire performance is an homage to “America’s Next Top Model.”
The cast of “Scapin” is winning but Richardson’s inventive work (she’s also the one with that red nose) stands out, as does Agnew, working at about twice the speed of most humans. This “Scapin” locates the title character’s manic energy in the absurdist details of the stories Scapin spins and in the twisty language within those tales, like this bit of impenetrable but hilarious nonsense: “My third eye sees your third eye and asks: Is that Maybelline Great Lash? Namaste!”
Reyes’ pop-culture-aware adaptation gets this “Scapin” off to a good start and he finds inventive ways to use TTT’s layout, with the audience on four sides of the performers. Often, he puts two actors at opposite corners of the playing space, volleying short, sharp bits of dialogue while our eyes shift from one performer to the other as if we’re watching a tennis match. It’s both effective in giving actors room to rip through the snappy dialogue and a visual representation of the idea that acting with a talented scene partner is like playing tennis with someone better than you: It ups your game.
It should be noted that this “Scapin” is not just silly. The lead role is generally male, but casting Agnew (and having another character refer to Scapin with “they” pronouns, indicating this rascal is non-gender binary) introduces an intriguing subtext. Is Scapin a deft manipulator because they understand the fluidity of gender better than the other characters? And, as I found myself thinking as I walked out of this smart and witty show, when will they get a love story of their own?
Who: Written by Molière, adapted by director Randy Reyes with additional text from the cast.
When: 7:30 p.m. Thu.-Sat., 4 p.m. Sun. Ends Nov. 4.
Where: Open Book, 1011 Washington Av. S., Mpls.
Tickets: $10-$30, 1-800-838-3006 or tenthousandthings.org.