- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 17, 2009

Washington’s eclectic In Series kicked off its 2009-2010 season at the Source on Saturday with a madcap revival of its hit show, “Cosi fan tutte Goes Hollywood.” Director Nick Olcott’s Roaring Twenties, English-language update of Mozart’s comic opera returns to the stage with updated lyrics and plenty of good-natured energy.

Transported to the offices of a 1929 Hollywood movie studio, the opera’s plot still springs from a cynical bet. Jaded associate film producer Gus Fonso (Mozart’s Don Alfonso) wagers two young hoofers, Elmo (Guglielmo) and Randy (Ferrando), that their wannabe movie star girlfriends, sisters Dorrie (Dorabella) and Florrie (Fiordiligi), will cheat on them at the drop of a hat, since “they all do it” (“Cosi fan tutte”). To prove the point, they plot to trick these two naive Sandusky farm girls into doing just that, aided by cynical starlet Tina (Despina).

Mr. Olcott’s modernized book, loaded with references from Broadway and film, is key to this show’s surprising pizazz. For example, derived from the names of Mozart’s original characters, Florrie and Dorrie also recall the showgirl choruses of early Broadway. And the remanufactured Act I finale cleverly rips off lyrics from Leonard Bernstein’s musical “Wonderful Town” (“Why, oh why, oh why-oh/ Did I ever leave Ohio?”). You get the picture.

As for the singing, the In Series’ cast acquitted themselves quite well during Sunday’s matinee performance. Their attention to diction also made most of Mr. Olcott’s amusing lyrics easy to grasp, a rarity in operatic performances these days without the assistance of surtitles.

Baritone Bryan Jackson was a gonzo Fonso, singing his role with panache and gusto. As his sometimes unwilling sidekick, Tina, crystal-clear soprano Randa Rouweyha was in fine voice throughout, displaying a nifty comic flair as she donned a pair of flamboyant disguises to help further Fonso’s nefarious plot.

As Florrie, soprano Mary Gresock reimagined Mozart’s character as a would-be flapper still trapped by stodgy Midwestern morals and effortlessly handled the composer’s challenging music in the process. As her fiance Elmo, baritone Terry Eberhardt also excelled with perfect pitch and an authoritative voice that would be comfortable even on a much larger stage.

As Dorrie and Randy, mezzo Tara McCredie and tenor Philip Bender were somewhat less effective in their singing roles, bending their top notes on occasion as if they were still a bit tired from the previous evening’s opening performance. Nonetheless, their broadly comic portrayals greatly contributed to this production’s nonstop energy.

The singers were nicely accompanied by three string players and pianist-conductor-music director Victoria Gau, all of whom performed admirably throughout in this tiny gem of a show.

WHAT: The In Series’ “Cosi fan tutte Goes Hollywood”

WHERE: The Source, 1835 14th St. NW

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Sept. 26; 7 p.m. Sunday and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday

TICKETS AND INFORMATION: $19 to $38; 202/204-7763 or visit www.inseries.org

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