Farce is not as easy to pull off as it looks. Add mounds of glorious text inspired by the freedom spouting French philosopher Francois-Marie Arouet, a.k.a Voltaire, and you’ve got quite a mix on your hands. Specifically, you’ve got Philosophus as presented by Best Medicine Rep.
As they’ve demonstrated in previous engagingly worded scripts, Best Medicine Rep knows its way around gorgeously structured sentences. Now they’ve added a baron and “insidious persecution…at the vile hands of despotism and tyranny” of a world renown philosopher in a goofy run, hide and chase situation set in 1753 in Frankfurt, Germany. The escapades involve Voltaire’s flight from the court of Frederick II, King of Prussia, the city-states before the formation of Germany. Tucked away in one of his several bags is a potentially embarrassing collection of poems. Let the games begin.
Terence Aselford is the trusted anchor in the madcap experience. Whether he’s pontificating on the latest sense of wonder about his own brilliance, or the magnificent premise of liberty, or strategizing his escape from the hapless soldiers determined to capture him, as Voltaire, Aselford spouts it all with the assurance of someone who knows his place in the scheme of things and it’s at the tippy-top. Accompanied by his trusted sidekick played by Terence Heffernan, Voltaire leaps from one fine mess to another avoiding and escaping the soldiers determined to capture him and retrieve the private writings of King Frederick, the Prussian ruler, self-anointed as “The Great.”
Talented John Morogiello plays Freytag, the soldier on a zealous mission to punish anyone who disparages the King, so he’s up in arms with Voltaire who spouts antagonistic bon mots about the ruler in the name of freedom and liberty. The heated exchanges between these two show the range and depth of the artists to maintain the fervor and fury while keeping the laughter flowing. Sometimes, Morogiello’s Freytag is so worn down by Voltaire’s non-stop roadrunner antics that he switches from thunderous demands to petulance pleas, anything to get the job done, while getting a laugh.
closes February 24, 2019
Details and tickets
There are no slamming doors or slap-stick schtick in the rounds of banter. Instead, the historical messages are packaged and presented as old-fashioned farce, where for example, the talented Heffernan plays both the somewhat dim-witted Prussian private on one side and Voltaire’s trusted accomplish, with only a huge clip-on mustache, accent and fabulous physical prowess making the difference.
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Rebecca A. Herron plays Frau Schmidt determined to make a mint off of the mishaps — no matter who gets the upper hand, her palm is ever present to make the most of it. Meanwhile Khaleshia Thorpe-Price is the voluptuous drop-dead gorgeous Mademoiselle Denis, supposedly the niece of the famous writer, who can flutter and shudder like nobody’s business leaving entire regiments quivering with desire while unleashing her own.
Director Stan Levin assures a steady pace and fun stylistics as the characters dash and traverse the nicely designed set, more of Morogiello’s creative handiwork. The set even includes upper level windows for the proprietress, Frau Schmidt to lean out of and add her say.
Elizabeth Kemmerer again pulled all the stops with costuming with soldiers attired in their swashbuckling best and Herron in a wide hooped skirt and fitting bodice top. The lavender pink ensemble for Mademoiselle is both classy and enticing at the same time, quite a feat and showcasing the actress’s alluring assets.
Premiering just last year, Philosophus has already won a slew of awards, and is making its metro area debut. For the show to find a home at Best Medicine is a testament to the company’s pizzazz to recognize and secure such an up and coming work in its first Actor’s Equity production. A thinking-person’s farce, Philosophus is a perfect fit for the area and a fun way to start the year.
Philosophus by Colin Speer Crowley . Director: Stan Levin . Starring: Terence Aselford, Terence Heffernan, Rebecca A. Herron, John Morogiello, Khaleshia Thorpe-Price . Set and Lighting Design—John Morogiello . Sound Design— Stan Levin . Costume Design— Elizabeth Kemmerer . Stage Manager— James Morogiello . Produced by Best Medicine Rep Theater . Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson.