Music by Arthur Sullivan
Libretto by W.S. Gilbert
Conductor: Gil Rose
Stage Director: Frank Kelley
Choreographer: Larry Sousa
Review by Gillian Daniels
(Boston, MA) After seeing the most recent Gilbert and Sullivan to delight Boston last night, I’ve decided to become an aesthete. One need only find an English poet with opaque poetry to adore, dress in long, flowing garments, talk about the wonders of Aestheticism, lay around, and sigh. But while Patience mocks the women who fawn over pale, tragic poet Reginald Bunthorne (the remarkably funny Aaron Engebreth), it also mocks the Dragoons who are their forgotten fiancees, the vain rival poet Archibald Grosvenor (an airily confident Paul Max Tipton), and the humble, befuddled milk maid, the titular Patience (Sara Heaton), who’s too innocent to understand what the concept of love even is. In short, this is a Gilbert and Sullivan show at its most Gilbert and Sullivan: staunchly lighthearted.
If there’s an ounce of seriousness to be had with this show, it’s with its main target, empty self-indulgence. You don’t need to know about the personas of Oscar Wilde, Swinburne, Whistler, or even pastoral poetry to understand the way the operetta lampoons passing fads. Though it doesn’t hurt.
Through the grace of the actors and the clever costuming by Amanda Mujica, the show is somehow as celebratory as it is sardonic. Everyone and everything in the story is of little consequence, building a perfect escape hatch for real world difficulties. Even Lady Jane (a stellar performance by Janna Baty), who is mocked within the show for her age and supposed lack of beauty by sexist 19th century standards, comes out triumphant both in character arc and stage presence. Baty and Engebreth have exquisite chemistry.
Now that the show has made me into an aesthete, I’m afraid I have nothing to do all day but find new ways to call it “wonderful” and “brilliant” through out this review. Maybe there are spots of imperfection, but watching staging, set design, and enthusiasm work so well in tandum smoothes out any possible wrinkles.
Part of my delight is that my expectations for Patience was only “comfortable Gilbert and Sullivan musical.” They all are, to some degree. It’s like slipping on a comfortable sweater if a sweater did pretty, repetitive rhymes and always ended with the male chorus and female chorus getting (interchangeably) married. I didn’t expect to be so fully transported by Patience’s hilarious dilemma in interpreting loving someone selflessly as loving someone to the exclusion of your own enjoyment. But the show snowballs so well until it pummels the audience with its own ridiculousness.
For this zealous aesthete, the greatest tragedy is that the Odyssey Opera is showcasing Patience all too briefly. In mourning, I will lounge in a melancholy fashion on the floor while reflecting on the performance. Or maybe read some Oscar Wilde.
We elected a thin-skinned bigot to the office of the President dead set on turning our “democracy” into a fascist, totalitarian oligarchy dominated by the 1%. Trump is a monster. His policies, when he names them, are destructive. His narcissistic behavior is more so.
Congressional “negotiators” released a spending bill that saves the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for Humanities, and National Public Radio until September at which time, the President and his impotent cronies may still cut arts funding. It is ever important to remain vigilant. And, for the love of all that’s sacred, keep creating. If you need help, ask for it. Our existence is our resistance. May the force be with you. – KD
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