"The Gamester" Is A Sure Win
At the Theatre with Audrey Linden
Theatre 40’s production of “The Gamester” translated by playwright, Freyda Thomas, opened their 2014-2015 season with a bang! If the audience reaction on opening night is an indicator, the play was a big hit and is a delightful “crowd pleaser”. Thomas wrote her original play, based on the little-known French classic, “Le Joueur” by Jean-Francois Regnard. The story is about a young compulsive gambler and takes place in Paris. The original took place in 1699, but Freyda Thomas’s play is set inParis in the 1800’s and is a charming character and period play. It is a fun romp through young Valere’s journey before there was a Gambler’s Anonymous.
Jules Aaron’s rapid pacing was perfect for a French farce reminiscent of Mollier’s works. Though the dialogue was in poetic meter, and that definitely was a challenge to the ensemble of fourteen, I soon forgot the distinct rhyming other than to think how clever the writing was. Freyda Thomas’ writing was exceptional.
Since this is a period piece set in Paris in the 1800’s, kudos to the costume designer, Michelle Young, for her absolutely wonderfully inventive costumes. I so loved the costumes you did for Marquis Fauxpaus. And, the wig mistress, Isabelle Samuelsson, did a great job in those wacky and fun wigs. Set designer, Jeff G. Rack designed a sparse but appropriate set which gave the ensemble cast a lot of room to cavort around in.
I give kudos to the entire ensemble, though the diminutive saucy, somewhat “over-the-hill”, but not “over-the-humping”, Mme. Securite, so wonderfully brought to life by Elain Rinehart, stood out. She opened and closed the play. She was definitely a “cougar”, and I loved her characterization. Maria Spassoff, whose work I have followed, was marvelous as Mme. Argante, the sour, dour widowed older sister to ingénue, Angelique played by McKenzie Eckels. Spassoff gives looks that could stop a horse in its tracks. Her expressions and dead pans were priceless. Scott Facher’s Marquis de Fauxpaus, with that ridiculous white wig, and penciled eyebrows, and stammer was hysterical. He gave a a memorable performance. James Schendel’s Hector was the resounding sanity and glue that held the play together.
Rafael Cansino, as the young obsessive gambler, showed us how hard it is to stop playing with “Lady Luck” even in the face of losing all near and dear to him.
Valere is reduced to living in one room in poverty. He cannot even pay his servant Hector, who has to keep the creditors at bay and try to heal the rift between father, Thomas, well-acted by David Hunt Stafford, broker for Valere’s affections, and keep it all together. Mme. Preferee has come to tell Valere the engagement is off due to the handsome young man’s compulsive gambling. He loves gambling more than Angelique. Angelique is being courted by Valere’s foul breathed Uncle Dorante, Antony Ferguson.
This is not a match made in heaven, but he is more than solvent. Valere makes a pact with both his father and Angelique that he will not gamble anymore. Anyone want to take a bet on that? He will not be seen in any casino. What are the odds on that? Freyda Thomas had a great couple of lines that someday there will be casino cities. Like Las Vegas and Atlantic City?
Marquis Fauxpaus, Scott Facher, is after Mme. Argante, Maria Spassoff. She feels “Marriage is a curse, unless it fattens your purse.” But he bumbles so, she cannot tolerate him and she also fancies Valere, who is engaged to her sweet, young sister. Mme. Argante has a purse fat enough to finance Valere’s gambling habit.
Mme. Securite, also has the securities or holdings to finance the young gambler in exchange for a quick romp in bed. The wealthy widow is after any good man who will take his pants off for her. It is a “fair trade at market value.” She reminds us, “If she lives past fifty, she needs cash.” Securite is her name and Seduction is her game.
As in any good French farce, there are characters in disguise, mistaken identities, love trysts, unrequited love, bawdy humor, and you name it. Act One ended on a high note with a delightful call to intermission by our cougar, Mme. Securite.
Act 2 got us into Mme.Preferee, a stoic and droll Susan Damante, Angelique’s guardian, is in on the sabotage. Pref and plotting and planning to sabotage our young gambler and takes place largely in the casino. Even Will Valere succumb to Lady Luck’s call? Is compulsion stronger than love? Can true love conquer all Will the secret identities be revealed? Who will find romance? Who will end up with whom? To quote indomitable playwright, William Shakespeare, “All’s well that ends well.” You will have to see this delightful romp through time yourself. The odds are in your favor. You will enjoy it! I bet on that.
“The Gamester” at Theatre 40, at The Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 Moreno Dr. in Beverly Hills, 90212 runs through August 24th There is ample free parking in the structure. Tickets are $26. For tickets and show times call, 310-364-0535 or go on line to www.theatre40.org
Audrey Linden is a writer, actress and singer. She can be seen in a long-running “Associated Tax Resolution” commercial, two “Little Caesars” spots, a “Teva International Pharmaceutical” short, Gene Simmons’ “Family Jewels,” “America’s Court with Judge Ross,” VHS “Tough Love 2,” “Wendy’s” , “Shimmer” commercial, “Tattoo Nightmares,” etc.
Audrey teaches ON CAMERA COMMERCIAL and IMPROV COMEDY WORKSHOPS through the City of Beverly Hills. To register, call 310-285-6850. Her classes are held at 241 Moreno Dr. B.H. 90212. Her On Camera Commercial Workshop starts in September. Registration is open in August. For more information, contact Audrey at email@example.com