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Gilbert and Sullivan Players' Patience is worth the wait



(or, Bunthorne's Bride.)

The MIT Gilbert and Sullivan Players.

Directed by Marion Leeds Carrol.

MIT Room 54-100.

Continues through April 16.

(See listing in On The Town.)


AH, MISERIE! BUT WHOM IS THE ingenuous milkmaid Patience to choose? The fleshly poet Reginald Bunthorne, or the idyllic Archibald Grosvenor, also a poet? "Neither!" say the Dragoon Guards, for (pardon the egregious misquote) "Things are seldom what they seem" in this love triangle.

Admittedly, the choice is a difficult one -- Robert De Vivo plays the rarest aesthetic poet of all -- one of that already rare breed of metaphor-dropping Lily-Lovers so disliked during the waning of the last century. For posing, wit, charm, and the not-so-occasional mou'e, Bunthorne clearly excels, and as a dancer, he seems much less likely to trample the bride's feet at the wedding reception. But Grosvenor (Paul Matthews G), possessed of a fine speaking voice, has much longer locks -- without which no poet can succeed.

Gilbert and Sullivan's 1881 comic operetta opens with a sort of Oscar Wildean nightmare -- (somewhat less than) twenty lovesick maidens glide onto an Ionian stage, draped in neo-classical gowns of lilac and chartreuse. Competing for the love of the aesthetic poet Bunthorne, they have transformed themselves into the very image of pre-Raphaelite beauty -- and convincingly, too. Melody Scheiner (whom we've seen out-spinster all other Katishas in last year's MTG production of The Mikado) plays the most melodramatic maiden of all, albeit one of fading charms and growing girth.

It's a shame that our Colonel Calverley (David F. Harrison) didn't deliver on "If you want a receipt" -- a very funny song in its heyday -- but I couldn't hear whether the highly obscure lyrics had been changed or not. His backup, the men's chorus of Dragoons, made several grand entrances and always wore animated expressions. I've never seen a more languid and love-sick chorus of women than the disciples of aestheticism who long for Bunthorne's love. (Antithetical to Patience's chorus of weak women are the male-foresworn scholars of Castle Adamant, presently appearing in the Harvard Gilbert and Sullivan Society's production of Princess Ida at Agassiz Theatre.)

Lisa Kummerow's agile voice lent great musicality to Patience's sung lines, and her spoken delivery was precise, but when combined the results were so operatic that I couldn't hear all of Gilbert's words. Her gay manner and continual grins remained uplifting, though.

Poseur extraordinaire De Vivo's prancing and declaiming of feigned-artistic foolishness proves the show's principal attraction -- his moments of recitative are worth seeing twice. Clad in an affected costume of velvet dinner jacket and breeches, with a decidedly Whistlerian lock of grey hair, Bunthorne's appearance is but one example of the production staff's success, and quite a ways from MITGSP's humble beginnings. Genuine theatrical illumination (with nostalgic cove-lights) and a set that does the seeming impossible -- who would have thought that the infant organization could so successfully stage an operetta within a lecture hall? There's a creditable orchestra to boot. Memorize the words to "God Save the Queen" before you come.