Scapin or The Con Artist

To his everlasting credit, the fearless French playwright Molière was relentless in his attacks on the status quo, be that religious hypocrisy, the aristocracy, doctors, the Church, or by imputation, the Crown. But on occasion, he, like Shakespeare, loved a good farce, and this, too, he knew how to serve up at the expense of those who, because of a little money in their pockets, think they're better than everyone else.

And like Shakespeare too, Molière did his best to bury the institution of arranged marriages and the concept of wives and children as property. In Scapin or The Con Artist, now in production by the Denver Center Theatre Company, Molière's wit is aimed at two wealthy gentlemen who have very specific ideas about whom their children should marry.

Photo of Cameron Folmar as Scapin and Randy Moore as Argante
Cameron Folmar as Scapin
and Randy Moore as Argante
Photo: Terry Shapiro
Into this woeful state of affairs walks Scapin, a role originally written for the playwright himself, who, with ease, manages to swindle the gentlemen on behalf of their sons, and gets everyone married to their desired mate. Indeed, Scapin makes this look easy.

Scapin: Let's be candid. I'm quite a guy. Almost nothing is impossible when I put my hand in. I have been, as it were, divinely blessed. Subterfuge, artifice, deception—things which the vulgar call 'scams'—I can say with neither vanity nor humility: I am the Master.

—Molière/Nagle Jackson. Scapin, p.3

Photo of Jamie Horton as Geronte and Randy Moore as Argante
Jamie Horton as Geronte
and Randy Moore as Argante
Photo: Terry Shapiro
Cameron Folmar, as Scapin, cultivates a rueful nonchalance that is positively disarming: one cannot help liking this scoundrel, especially since he triumphs over such classic snobs as Argante and Geronte, whose arrogance makes them inviting targets. Randy Moore and Jamie Horton, as the self-important old fools, are such exquisitely carved archetypes that it appears they have walked out of a commedia dell'arte illustration.

Photo of Corliss Preston as Zerbinetta and Elizabeth Rainer as Hyacinth
Corliss Preston as Zerbinetta
and Elizabeth Rainer as Hyacinth
Photo: Terry Shapiro
All this tomfoolery works because the objects of their sons' affections are the pert and comely Hyacinth, equal parts vacuous and analytical in the hands of Elizabeth Rainer, and the lusty gypsy, Zerbinetta, an exotic and irrepressible siren as played by Corliss Preston.

Photo of Kathleen M. Brady as Nerina
Kathleen M. Brady as Nerina
Photo: Terry Shapiro
Christopher Kelly, as the hyperbolic Octavio, Steven Hughes, as the inept Leander, Anthony Powell, as the understated but secretly flamboyant Silvestro, and Kathy Brady, as the blubbering nurse, Nerina, punctuate this rich comedic tapestry.

Director Nagle Jackson's translation is nothing short of brilliant, maintaining Molière's barrage of quick-witted repartee while remaining seamlessly colloquial. The set, costume, lighting, and sound designs amplify this bright adaptation.

The Denver Center Theatre Company's entertaining Scapin or The Con Artist runs through June 7th. 303-893-4100.

Bob Bows


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