The Skylight’s Marriage of Figaro
How do you know when a company is doing right by Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro?
Are you laughing? Is everyone else laughing? If so, it’s probably right. This weekend,The Skylight Opera Theatre opened the funniest Marriage I’ve ever seen — or, for that matter, heard. This cast knows how to deliver a punchline in recitative in English, and that is a rare and remarkable thing.
Alicia Berneche, as Susanna, and Andrew Wilkowske, as Figaro, were at the heart of it. They inhabited their characters and their relationship with an easy, playful physicality. These lovers are kidders, a fun and funny couple. They’re smart enough not only to see the craziness around them at the Almaviva compound, but to get a kick out of it. The two singer-actors are so comfortable with each other that they can punctuate tricky duets with quick kisses and invest a slap in the face and a pratfall with rhythm.
That rhythm rose as much from Mozart’s music as from characters, plot and dialog. Berneche’s easy brilliance with Mozart’s melodies and ornaments was a joy to behold and said a lot about Susanna. Wilkowske did not merely sing, he probed and quipped and threw away lines with the music, and did it in a big, round, satisfying sound.
Wilkowske and Berneche understood how Mozart embedded comedy in the music, and so did Diane Lane, as Cherubino, and Kurt Ollmann, as the Count, whose philandering puts the farce in motion. Lane’s singing surged as crazily as Cherubino’s libido. Ollmann’s Count was languid and sly when hatching his schemes and blustery or deflated in the face of opposition or in bewilderment.
The comic interactions of all the above, plus Thomas J. Weis (Bartolo), Susan Wiedmeyer (Barbarina), Ryan Matthew Porter (Antonio), Jennifer Clark (Marcellina) and William Lavonis (Basilio/Don Curzio) played out with the perfectly timed wackiness of a flawless Rube Goldberg set-up.
The Marriage of Figaro is a lot of fun, but it’s not merely fun. The moral depth of it comes from the betrayed and humiliated Countess. Tanya Kruse Ruck played and sang the role with heartbreaking nobility tempered by a touching longing for a man’s touch.
Director Bill Theisen assembled a smart, talented cast and gathered them into a whole. Beyond that, he managed to draw an arc that began last fall, in his Skylight production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. That arc stretches to the final curtain of The Marriage of Figaro.
Marriage runs through Feb. 14 at the Broadway Theatre Center. For ticket information and a complete schedule, visit the Skylight website or call the BTC box office, 414-291-7800.
Note: Jennifer Clark became subject to some physical problems with her voice late in the rehearsal period. Saturday night, she acted the part of Marcellina and sang the recitatives, but Carol Greif sang her melodic flights from the side of the stage.