On Campus: Ruddigore -- A crazy town led by a king cursed to commit one crime per day
Gabor Csanyi -- The Tech
Rose Maybud (Rebecca Consentino) and Robin (Daniel Kamalic '99) in Gilbert & Sullivan Players' Ruddigore.
By Vladimir V. Zelevinsky
If you are the type of person who wakes up on Nov. 1 tragically aware that it's 364 long days until the next Halloween, take heart. You still have a chance to see usually sane people wear ridiculous costumes, make weird body movements, and sing solos, duets, and choruses in public: in other words, an opera. In this case, a comparison to Halloween is even more apt, because the opera in question is comic horror melodrama Ruddigore from that ubiquitous British team of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan (if you ever find yourself on Jeopardy, Sullivan is the one who wrote the music) and deals with such heartwarming subjects as witches, curses, and ghosts.
While not quite of the same caliber as the acknowledged masterpieces by the same team (like The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado), Ruddigore provides the typical G&S plot which simultaneously makes perfectly logical sense and is loopy to the utmost degree, sharp dialogue (choice line: "You've no idea what a poor opinion I have of myself, and how little I deserve it"), and catchy music (there is no known cure for suffering patients who can't refrain from continuously humming the tunes for a week after hearing them).
Ruddigore is also particularly strong in having more than half a dozen vividly kooky characters: young and beautiful Rose Maybud (Rebecca Consentino), who doesn't make a step without consulting with Miss Manners; Robin Oakapple (Daniel Kamalic '99), a modestly dashing young man whose full-time occupation is pretending to be a farmer; his foster-brother Richard Dauntless (Joshua Breindel), whose libido is second in size only to his ego; tastefully and fashionably dressed Mad Margaret (Amy E. Allen); Sir Despard Murgatroyd, a wicked baronet of Ruddigore, surely in the Guinness Book of Records as the only member of the Murgatroyd family whose first name doesn't start with R; and other people, both alive and undead. The plot concerns usual romantic troubles: love, jealousy, ancient curses, ghosts, talking sock-puppets, and such.
The MIT G&SP production of Ruddigore, while being clearly a work of enthusiastic amateurs, is highly praiseworthy. Most performers are very good, both as actors and singers, and the best singing is done by Consentino and Kamalic, the two romantic leads (Kamalic passes the acid test of Sullivan's notoriously rapid patter songs with flying colors). To my regret, it's often hard to understand Richard Dauntless' songs; on the other hand, Breindel's acting is excellent, making Richard a thoroughly charismatic scoundrel. Less impressive is the orchestra, which leaves the impression of being underrehearsed; solo parts are performed fine, but most music lacks coherence. To be fair, I attended the first performance; and judging by how much better the musicians were during the second act, the subsequent performances should experience no such problems. Frankly speaking, the only area in which improvements are desirable is organization; the audience is bound to lose some goodwill when tickets are available only ten minutes before the show, as opposed to the promised thirty.
Congratulations are due to all the MIT Gilbert and Sullivan Players, especially to director Scott Gagnon and set designers Carolyn Jean Smith '87 and Jason Goodman G. The production is colorful and moves along at a brisk pace, but without sacrificing coherency.
The set for the first act is adequate but unremarkable, which is actually good, since it provides a striking contrast with the gothically somber set of the second act. This second act is built around a spectacular special effect (I won't give it away, but you'll know it when you see it), and is realized in a simple yet seamless manner. Speaking of which, Ruddigore is a bit unusual in having a second act much more serious and genuinely emotional that the first one; this production plays it mostly for laughs, which is certainly a valid choice. While not being very involving emotionally, it comes out as being very funny, and that's a fair trade-off; the funniest bit in the show wasn't written by either Gilbert or Sullivan. I refer to what happens immediately after the line "Let the agonies commence." I don't think I laughed that hard in quite a while.