A Wicked Good Time
Directed by Brian Bermack ’95
Written by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan
Produced by Robert Morrison ’96
Music directed by Alan Yost
Choreographed by Holly Harrington
Costumes designed by Sarah Ellis and Felix Rivera ’02
Set designed by Jean Kanjanavaikoon ’02
With Brendan O’Brine, Anne Rhodes, Jonathan Weinstein G, Evan Xenakis, Randy Kestin, David Michael Daly, Mary A. Finn ’81 and many others
More information available at <http://www.JWWells.com>
What do you get when you mix love and magic? You either have bliss or chaos. MIT Gilbert and Sullivan Players’ The Sorcerer, playing this past weekend in La Sala de Puerto Rico, examined the chaos of mismatched love.
The rich but witless Alexis (Bill O’Brine) has a vision (preached to teamsters, lunatic asylums, and technical institutes) that the joy of marriage shall overrule all earthly unhappiness. Practicing what he’s preached, Alexis is recently betrothed to the beautiful Aline (Anne Rhodes). At his betrothment ceremony, he plots the final realization of his vision: to bring the joy of marriage to the entire town. Alexis calls in the old family sorcerer, Jonathan Wellington Wells (Jonathan Weinstein G) to concoct the perfect love potion.
Pulled from its Victorian setting, The Sorcerer took place in modern times. J.W. Wells had his own website and even a PowerPoint presentation for his services. Sometimes changing a play’s setting can be construed as egocentric on the part of the director or just confusing for the audience, but the change was well done. The traditional parts were kept traditional and the updated parts were funny and jived with the rest of the play. For example, even J. W. Wells himself has to call on the eternal forces of evil for his real powers.
The play’s set was very detailed, helping to make the transition between time periods. The sky was painted blue, real street lamps marked the night/day transition, and the whole set was enclosed by what looked like individually painted stones. Even when J.W. Wells was calling on the force of darkness to help him make the love potion and the set was blanketed in darkness, the details still brought out important elements of the plot. Lightening struck when the sorcerer mixed the potion, and blacklights illuminated the sprites from the underworld.
Although most of the musical’s numbers involved the whole chorus, Anne Rhodes, as Aline, stood out from the rest. With only a few solos, Rhodes proved to have the most confident and powerful voice in the production. Unwilling to yield wholly to her fiancÉ’s plans, she deliberately sings of her concerns and thoughts about the mayhem Alexis has caused. Not so much a hopeless romantic as a thoughtful pragmatist, her character communicates the potential downfalls of Alexis’ plans before they come about.
As the comic element in the play, Jonathan Weinstein G plays (literally) the devil’s advocate. Partially assuaging Aline’s fears and playing off of Alexis’s hopes, J.W. Wells brings the love potion (philter) into existence, wreaking havoc on the town. Jonathan Weinstein G makes his mark in the play by being funny and idiosyncratic. As the only person not from the village, he stands out. As the only modernized character, he seems to bring the modern world into the quaint little town. The sorcerering world’s version of a slick car salesman, Jonathan Weinstein sings an “Incantation,” and sells the potion as quick as he can.
The best musical numbers didn’t involve the whole cast, but instead only the main characters. “Welcome Joy,” sung by Randi Kestin and Evan Xenakis, alternated between slow (the characters’ outward appearance) and fast (the characters’ inward sentiments) and was a playful, spirited number. One of the best moments in the play was the combination of the three main characters, Bill O’Brine, Jonathan Weinstein, and Anne Rhodes, when they begin to see the effect of the love potion on the villagers. “’Tis Twelve, I Think” incorporated the strongest singers with the main comic elements of the play.
Overall, The Sorcerer combined modern and traditional elements to an outstanding effect. The play was memorable because of its main characters as well as its details. Besides, watching the mayhem sure is fun.