MFA students excel in French farce finale

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UMKC Theatre/

To culminate their three year MFA program, esteemed UMKC professor Theodore Swetz, selected a French farce to provide his graduate students an opportunity to explore a broader comedy scenario than most of their assignments allowed during their commitment to the UMKC Master of Fine Arts curriculum.

“The Game of Love and Chance” by Pierre de Marivaux gives Swetz’ graduate students the opportunity to develop the comedic timing and technique to build their comedy resume for future casting. According to Swetz, he leans on the adage that “dying is easy–comedy it tough.” This comic endeavor most certainly gave a challenge to his students to develop realistic characters and bring out the comedy from within each character.

The play uses the ploy of switched identities and mixed romantic entanglements in a ploy to determine if a particular suitor is pleasing to another. But, the charade gets more deeply entangled when both suitors switch identities. Even more comic is the notion that upper-class individuals swap their personas with a lower station person (a servant). Of course, love plays a significant role in the swapping of social prestige positions. And, of course there exists the idea of marrying up or down in social classes. Does love or social standing win? That’s the proposal in Marivaux’s screwball comedy.

To make the play more current, some modern twists have been added with some genius performances and presentation from the MFA candidates. Most assuredly, comedy reigns supreme in this production, and the cast grasps the opportunity and delivers with heart and gusto.

In looking at biographies of the cast, they performed in UMKC and with other venues in the KC Metro that participate in co-productions with UMKC students to provide acting exposure and experience as the MFA students build their resume. MFA students work with The Coterie, The Unicorn Theatre, Kansas City Actors Theatre, Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, among others. Their work ranges from children’s theatre to Shakespeare, but most do not get the opportunity to hone their comedic technique or display broad characterizations. “The Game of Love and Chance” instilled the comedic performance for all.

“The Game of Love and Chance” also gave challenges to the non-acting participants who designed the set, properties, lighting, sound, stage management, technical direction, and the behind the scenes dedication needed to present a professional production. Give special note to the costumer whose work shows with each character. The gowns were spectacular; the men’s wardrobe was stunning and time/age appropriate. Even the wigs moved the audience back to 1700s France. When viewing, take note of the technical details needed to create a French courtyard motif.

The acting ensemble was fantastic with strong stage presence and character development. Granted, I had seen these performers previously in other productions, but never the opportunity to see them together and in such fully developed roles. Mostly, Kansas City theatres produce drama or dark comedy. Seldom do I see a broad comedy that highlights the upcoming talents. “The Game of Love and Chance” allowed me to see a new side to these actors.

The actors playfully engage the audience from the first lines. Their initial entrance onto the stage prior to the actual dialog is fun and light. Their introduction to Act II also elicits smiles. Their portrayals get funnier as the play progresses, showing their understanding of character development and deployment. All are ready to make a difference in the acting community, again proving that Kansas City is a hotbed of talent.

Kudos to Swetz, the production team, and especially the actors. And of special note, the costumes are fabulous. Congratulations all.

The cast is: Emilie Karas as Silvia, Marianne McKenzie as Lisette, Freddie Acevedo as Dorante, Jason Franeson as Harlequin, Chelsea Kinser as Orgon, Kalif J. Gillett as Mario, Allison McCrae as Orgon’s valet, Mark Lowrey as featured musician (Amado Mio).

The Production staff: Theodore Swetz, director; Yetunde Felix-Ukwu, assistant director; Rafael Toribio, scenic designer; Zoe Spangler, lighting designer; Sadie DeSantis, production manager; Kayla Specht, costume design; Steven Jarvis, sound designer; Maria Nieto, assistant costume designer; Sheridan McKinley, stage manager; Hunter Andrews, technical director; Sarah Reed, properties master; Emily Ho, assistant stage manager; Kiera Fayne, assistant stage manager; Hieu Bui, production assistant; Zan deSpelder, master electrician; Selena Gonzalez-Lopez, scenic charge artist; Christian Taylor, Lee O. Barker, & Sarah Winegarten, scenic painters; Matthew Schon, sound engineer; Sabrina Stewart, light board operator; Matthew Schon, sound board operator; Dionna Patrick, stage crew; Marcus Daniel, props crew; Molly Ross & Allison McCrae, Wardrobe; Joshua Davidson, house manager; Katie Antrainer & Alex Ritchie, ushers; Haley Solowy, laundry; Frederick Rivera, laundry.

Tags: UMKC Theatre, “The Game of Love and Chance” review, Kansas City Theatre, UMKC, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment

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