An utterly farcical portrait of 'Marriage,' Russian-style

Posted: February 14, 2012

Nikolai Gogol, the 19th-century Russian writer with a strong sense of the ridiculopathy of life - after all, he wrote a story about a nose - would seem to be a perfect fit for the Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium, a theater company specializing in Theater of the Absurd, though Gogol's play Marriage (an utterly improbably occurrence in two acts) isn't really absurdist drama - it's a farce, complete with loud voices, many doors, (and a significant window).

Under Tina Brock's direction, everything is farcically exaggerated: costumes (Erica Hoeschler) and a nifty set (Anna Kiraly) on which all the much-discussed furnishings are flat, painted images, with flat, painted trees outside. It's all amusing, in that broad, 19th-century Russian way.

"There are such bloody awful names in Russian - they make you want to spit and cross yourself." That being the case, it's quite possible that I'll misidentify some of these actors, since it's nearly impossible to keep their characters' names straight. But here goes:

A young woman, Agafya Tikhonovna Kuperdyagina (see what I mean?), played by Kristen Egermeier, needs a husband. Her ditsy mother, Arina Panteleimonovna (Sonja Robson), agrees. Enter a matchmaker, Fyokla Feklusha Ivanovna (Tina Brock), who has six candidates - one handsome, one fat, twin peasants, a young gentleman, a retired naval officer - lined up for her to choose among. This is a predictable occasion for class insults. Meanwhile, one of the eligibles is being hounded by his friend to hurry up and marry (motive unclear unless it's simply that misery loves company).

The guys - John D'Alonzo, David Stanger, Ethan Lipkin, Joe Matyas, Michael Dura, and Tomas Dura - are all good, although Brian McCann as the old deaf lecher is outstanding.

There is much balking at the gate; first the groom, then the bride, then the groom again, then the bride again until finally . . .. Well, it hardly matters. Plot isn't the point, but style is, and the IRC production carries Marriage off with considerable ridiculopathy.


Marriage

Presented by Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium at the Walnut Street Theatre's Studio 5, Ninth and Walnut Streets. Through Feb. 26. Tickets: $20. idiopathicridiculopathyconsortium.org or 215-285-0472.

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