A theatre's season finale should be a celebration for everyone: actors, crew, directors and, especially, the audience.
If you miss Masquerade, Triad Stage's 10th season finale, you will miss what is surely one of the most riotous and ribald productions in this theatre company's history. Sure, it's a theatrical celebration, but it's also a straight-up rave commemorating everything Triad Stage has accomplished in its decade of existence.
As Triad Stage-goers know, stepping into a world that is the creation of artistic director Preston Lane & Co. is always an adventure. To say that Masquerade is a feast for the eyes cannot do this production justice. Never have you seen such a brilliant collaboration of set, costumes, and, yes - because this is a 17th-century setting - wigs.
Masquerade is Lane's adaptation of Ludvig Holberg's 1724 play about the fallout of an arranged marriage, written for a small theatre in Copenhagen. It was a cool time on the island, and, even though the notorious masquerade balls that had grown so popular in Europe had been banned in his own town, Holberg's play managed to garner a following.
Almost 300 years later, Lane manages to capture both the ceremony and the silliness of all this Danishness and helps us see that maybe the more things change…, well….
Chris Raddatz, in his Triad Stage debut, is superbly cast as the character around whom all the action pivots, er, pirouettes, and if this University of North Carolina at Greensboro senior doesn't have you guffawing with his portrayal of a lovesick slacker teenager, get your laugh box checked.
We've seen Raddatz's love interest Cheryl Koski, also a UNCG senior, in previous Triad Stage performances (Picnic, The Glass Menagerie), but never with such r-r-r-racy abandon. In epic hairdo and ball gown, Koski as Leonora manages to convince us not only that is she in love with Raddatz's Leander, but that she can also get her groove on in any century.
Mark Boyett's whirling Henrich, Leander's servant, practically sets the stage on fire with a performance worthy of an Olympic gold medal in groveling. Boyett is a Triad Stage vet, and once you see him in this role, you understand why.
John Feltch and Brad Bellamy play the young lovers' fathers, and each brings his own parenting style to the fore in dealing with their wayward youngsters. Feltch directed Triad Stage's Bell, Book, and Candle and Steel Magnolias. Lucky for us, he stuck around to do some commanding acting. And welcome back, Lorraine Shackelford, as the dutiful but playful mom Magdelone.
Dierdre Friel* (maybe you saw her in The Sopranos) threatens to steal the show as Leonora's maid Pernille, with her pantomime of, let's say, a high point in the action.
Kelsey Hunt's amazing monochromatic 17th century costumes and props master Amy Peter's gorgeous mirrored chandelier/disco ball pop off a hound's-tooth-like neutral set by Fred Kinney with lighting designed by John Wolf. Three doors lend themselves conveniently to some "door comedy," undoubtedly one of Lane's favorites. Throw in a little Abbot and Costello, Keystone Cops, and the Marx Brothers, and you might scratch the surface of Lane's comic references.
Masquerade is pure Preston Lane: going crazy within the constructs of a classic. It also unmasks Triad Stage , once again, as one of the premiere regional theatres in the country.
This show continues through June 26. For details, see the sidebar.
name corrections 6/14/11.
*In an earlier version of this review we reported this production as Deidre Friel's TS debut., but a reader reminds us that she had one of the three roles in Doubt three years ago. We're always grateful for corrections like this.