“A Company of Wayward Saints” Makes an Evening of Great Theatre
Commedia dell’Arte was a very popular form of theatre in Europe from the 16th through the 18th century. A troupe of players would develop specific characters and continually portray those characters through each improvisational production. Wearing masks, there would be a warrior, a vamp, two young lovers, a wiseman and of course the harlequin among them and they would play those same characters in every production as they traveled. George Herman, American playwright first published “A Company of Wayward Saints” about such a company in 1963 and it has been popular among theatre goers ever since..
Jewel Box Theatre presents “A Company of Wayward Saints” under the expert direction of Richard Lemin from February 2 to February 19, 2023. The story is about a troupe of traveling performers anxious to go home but they are without the funds needed to travel. A wealthy patron offers to provide all the necessary funds to end the company tour and find solace in their homes. They must do just one more performance of a scenario the wealthy duke has chosen to see. That scenario is ‘The History of Man’ and a very tall order it is. Their attempt is hilarious, and the audience is riveted by the comedy that can come from the personal tragedy of the players as they struggle to present such a history to the satisfaction of the audience and the patron.
Lemin is an excellent director and begins with a superb cast. Keegan Zimmerman is as brilliant playing Scapino, as Scapino himself claims to be as a performer in the troupe. Denise Hughes is Columbine, as beautiful and witty as any Columbine with her expressive assortment of double takes. Daniel E. Willsey is wonderful and charming as Pantalone and Don Taylor is absolutely perfect as a leader and inspiring the group in his role as Harlequin. The two young lovers are played by Kaelin McGowan as Tristano and Maddie Loury as Isabella with sensual chemistry and talent. Chip Chappelle is the Dottore with consummate skill and his own charm while John C. Arnold is the Capitano, filled with self-assurance and a delightful lack of charm in his character. Allyson Rose is Ruffiana, vamping with skill, she is the Sophia Loren of the troupe. This ensemble is a great compliment to Lemin as the first step in directing a great show is assembling a great cast.
The first act is very entertaining in the action as they struggle to portray the history of mankind.
They do not easily find their way. The second act returns with a twist, they discover how to portray exactly what the duke has requested: The History of Man. In this we see the elements of comedy clearly based on the human condition. It is full of tragedy as the foundation of humor, but the human condition is no tragedy. As a result, this production achieves exactly what the playwright, directors, actors and audience (including critics) expect from the theatre. That expectation is to leave the theatre thoroughly entertained but also challenged.
Much of the success is, of course, due to the unsung heroes, the crew laboring backstage. Dealing sometimes with somewhat uncooperative lighting and sound technical equipment Is Isaiah J. Williams. Managing from backstage is Carol McDonald with Michelle Hall assisting. Great costumes are the result of the hard work provided by Deborah Franklin. Jamie Brewster and James Tyra handle the properties, pulling together the best prop choices for this production The construction of a wonderful set is due to Cadence Cloud.
“A Company of Wayward Saints can be seen through February 19, 2023 at the Jewel Box Theatre in the new location a stone’s throw from the old one—Disciples First Christian Church at 321 NW 36th Street in Oklahoma City. For further information visit www.JewelBoxOKC.com or call (405) 521-1786. This is an impressive show—don’t miss it!