A pocket opera, according to the program, contains “one scale; four voices and three players”. The Girl who Waters the Basil and the Inquisitive Prince follows this traditional form as it tell the tale of Irene Girly Girl, the daughter of a lowly shoemaker, and her wooing by the mischievous Prince. The story which draws chiefly from a play by Federico Garcia Lorca and a folk tale called “The Basil Patch” is more or less your run of the mill love story of trickery, betrayal and the eventual happily ever after. The show keeps a sense of humor throughout especially provided by the gleefully silly narrator played by Cory Davis.
Unfortunately, The Girl who Waters the Basil, suffered from what appeared to be a lack of preparedness. As I read the bios of the three principal singers, Robert Baker, Rebecca Ocampo, and James Shaffran, I was impressed by the experienced singers involved in the production and excited to hear them perform. Yet, my enthusiasm wilted when all three singers preformed from behind music stands and read from sheet music the majority of the show. This took me out of the story completely.
I can appreciate the rare talent that these artists possess in being able to sing opera, but but one of the more challenging aspects of theater is getting an audience to believe in the characters and become invested in the story. Having the performers on stage with music stands or books obscured the characters and did not allow me as an audience member to suspend any disbelief.
Aside from that rather glaring part of the show, the script had an amusing self-awareness and Cory Davis’s excellent comic timing helped keep the show lively. Davis’s interplay with clarinetist, David Jones, is among the funniest parts. The musicians, David Jones, Richard O’Meara, Molly Orlando, are led by conductor Douglas Boyce who is even allowed to get in on the act from time to time, with humorous results.
While The Girl who Waters the Basil does provide some enjoyable moments, the extensive talents of the cast and musicians are wasted for the most part on this predictable love story.
Directed by Jodi Kanter
Reviewed by Mo O’Rourke