Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Non-Shakespeare Plays at Festival Really Spirited

Cleveland Press July 28, 1965

As its second non-Shakespearean offering this season, the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival is presenting an evening of Chekhov and Moliere. (The other non Shakespeare presentation is Sheridan's "The Rivals.")

The Festival company was seemingly light-hearted at being turned loose on such comic fare. For certainly they played both works with resounding energy.

The curtain raiser is Chekhov's one act comedy, "The Marriage Proposal." Now for those who may react at the mention of Chekhov, this in no way compares with his larger and greater plays. It is not a mood piece, but a bit of broad comedy. The social comments are there, but ignore them.

THERE STILL IS the sensitiveness of characters to minor things, but it is a sensitiveness that makes itself manifest in shrieks and bellows. Surely a few more performances like last night's and the three actors will find themselves without voices.

A landowner (Arthur Lithgow) is visited by a neighbor (Ralph Drischell) who asks permission to marry the landowner's daughter (Anne Gee Byrd).

Left alone, the man and the woman argue over the ownership of a piece of land before they ever talk of marriage.

DRISCHELL portrays an emotional man who suffers from heart palpitations and splitting headaches. He moves about the stage on rubber legs, falls and tumbles and knocks furniture out of the way, makes an off-stage exit that starts in a tumble and ends in a belly slide. Miss Byrd is convincing as a woman who is a shrewish wife in the making.

Lithgow, artistic director of the Festival, has directed this play as well as appearing in it. He directs at a break-neck pace, acts broadly and seems to relish the joys of hamming it up on stage for a change.

Moliere's "School for Wives" bears a kinship with some of the Shakespearean comedies in its reliance on mistaken identities and the revelation of long forgotten or lost relationships.

THE PRESENTATION of this 300-year-old play is not stuffy nor pedantic but is offered with a sense of fun Its stylized acting -- the flourishes and bows -- however, is not always as graceful as one might wish.

In "School for Wives," Moliere has expounded on jealousy and man's fear of being betrayed by his wife. His main character Arnolphe (Mario Siletti) has raised a girl (Charlotte Glenn) from childhood in seclusion so that he might have someone to marry who is innocent, simple and free from corruption.

A handsome young friend (James Tripp) confides in him about a romantic escapade and he is horrified to learn that the girl involved is the one he intends to marry. His every effort to thwart the plans of the young lovers brings them closer together.

LARRY LINVILLE has directed this with an attempt to inject action into an essentially wordy play. Aside from the rapid exits and entrances, there is movement given to the actors in their frequent asides to the audience.

Siletti's aging fop is always comic, a quality in keeping with the over-all zest of the production. But there are lines that betray the suffering of a man infatuated with a young woman and this is missing from the part. Perhaps a change of pace, some variety is called for here.

Miss Glenn has little to do except look prim and pretty and she does both quite well. James Tripp seems right as the handsome young man smitten with love.

Western Has Bibi

Swedish actress Bibi Anderson has been signed to star with James Garner and Sidney Poitier in the western, "20 to Duel." This is the first American movie for the actress who starred in five Ingmar Bergman pictures including "Wild Strawberries," "The Magician," "The Devil'.s Eye," "The Seventh Seal" and "Brink of Life," for which she won the Cannes Film Festival best actress award.