- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 13, 2001

It's a shame the In Series doesn't have a permanent home — one with a giant stage for its "The Marriage of Figaro: the Las Vegas Version."

Still, director Tom Mallan takes Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's boisterous tale of the intricacies of love and vengeance and places it in 1960s sin city for a crowd-pleasing production highlighted by music director Carlos Rodriguez's great work on the piano.

The In Series became a vagabond last summer when its new landlord, George Washington University, evicted the group from its longtime home at Mount Vernon College's Hand Chapel. "Figaro" is being staged at Clark Street Playhouse in Arlington.

This "Figaro" is an adaptation by playwright Elizabeth Pringle. A lot of plotting and counterplotting occurs on the way to the happy ending, of course.

Figaro, personal assistant to the Count (a nightclub singer), is about to marry Susanna, the Countess' personal assistant. He learns the Count wants to have an affair with his bride-to-be and schemes to trap him.

The Count is caught making an indecent proposal to Susanna by hotel manager Basilio and the young songwriter Cherubino, who loves the Countess. The Count, who suspects his wife of fooling around, arranges to have Cherubino sent away.

Meanwhile, the bookie Marcellina and her lawyer, Bartolo, want to force Figaro into marrying Marcellina to pay his debt, but before the wedding, they discover he is the son they gave up years ago.

Susanna and the Countess try to expose the Count by arranging a meeting, and Figaro mistakenly believes Susanna is really planning to have an affair, just hours after their wedding.

After a lot of trickery and disguises and pretending to be fooled by those disguises, all ends well — the Countess gets back her man, Figaro and Susanna are in love, and Marcellina and Bartolo have gotten married.

The opera, which is performed in English, contains pop-culture signposts throughout, such as Basilio's Mafioso-type hotel manager and references to Bob Hope and his USO tours. The modern songs woven into the opera — "Luck Be a Lady" and "Stormy Weather," among others — are a big part of the fun.

A wonderful scene has Marcellina looking about at the machinations of all the lovers and singing, "What do you get when you fall in love?" She's joined by Susanna and the Countess in a '60s girl-group-type number.

The cast is almost uniformly terrific.

As the Count, William Heim manages smarmy charm and glowering possessiveness. He is taken with Susanna, but gives the impression he's more enamored of the image of himself on the make.

Linda Nadeau steals many scenes as Marcellina — she struts and bullies in glorious cattiness.

The leads — Terry Eberhardt as Figaro and Rebecca Ocampo as Susanna — are pleasant enough, but not quite up to par with the rest of the cast.

Mr. Eberhardt, wiry thin and moving like a marionette, gives a physical and engaging performance, but he sometimes seems overwhelmed by the music or the other actors.

Miss Ocampo's Susanna is even-keeled throughout — maybe too much so. She confidently goes through the opera with little doubt of the tidy ending.

Laura Lewis, as the Countess, is wistful, yet funny. Aware of her husband's wandering eye, she comforts herself with booze, massages, manicures, pills — and the affection of Cherubino.

Cherubino is one of the production's minor weaknesses.

The hypersexual page in Mozart's opera is transformed here into a pot-smoking flower child, garnering laughs with the "Oh, maaaan," whine that calls to mind Cheech and Chong.

It's funny, but a poor fit. This peacenik Cherubino (Anna Hurwitz) — complete with John Lennon glasses and a fringed, suede vest — is not believable as the libidinous young man moony over the Countess.

In going for the easy laugh, it strikes a false note.

The costumes and set design make the production look and feel as though it were the 1950s, so Cherubino doesn't seem to jibe with the time period.

Although Mr. Mallan is limited by the relatively small space of the Clark Street Playhouse, he inventively uses a trio of showgirls to capture a Vegas atmosphere. They are Barbi, Bambi and Bitsi.

The three nearly steal a few scenes, especially in some of the hilariously unpolished dance numbers.

As Mr. Mallan says in his director's note, "The Marriage of Figaro: The Las Vegas Version" weds Mozart and pop culture. The union results in an enjoyable show and a lot of belly laughs.

{*}{*}{*}WHAT: The In Series' "The Marriage of Figaro: The Las Vegas Version"WHERE: Clark Street Playhouse, 601 S. Clark St., Crystal City (Arlington)WHEN: 8 p.m. today, Friday and Jan. 20; 7:30 p.m. Wednesday; and 3 p.m. tomorrowTICKETS: $16 to $25PHONE: 202/237-9834

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