December 3, 2021

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Overview: ‘The Alchemist,’ a Play in Search of Comedy Gold

Review: ‘The Alchemist,’ a Play in Search of Comedy Gold

Let’s face it: Some folks don’t simply ask to be conned, they virtually beg for it. Their greed, be it for cash, intercourse or energy, makes them weak to probably the most extraordinary fabrications: the extra outlandish the guarantees, the tougher they fall for them. Conveniently, their hubris and self-confidence shelter them from the truth that they’re gullible idiots.

Such good marks are matched with good swindlers — shrewd, resourceful, vulnerable to fart jokes — within the Ben Jonson comedy “The Alchemist,” now being revived by the Pink Bull firm. Naturally, shenanigans and slapstick ensue, spiced with an abundance of saucy double, and generally single entendres.

For the event, Pink Bull has reunited the group behind its 2017 hit adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s “The Government Inspector”: the playwright Jeffrey Hatcher, who translated Jonson’s dense Jacobean textual content right into a vernacular that’s simpler on Twenty first-century New York ears, and the director Jesse Berger, who appears to have by no means met a door that might not be slammed in a rush. The pairing is felicitous, although the consequence will not be as constantly humorous as their earlier present, particularly within the slack second act. Admittedly, little or no is.

After his grasp leaves plague-infested London for his house within the nation, “for he might properly afford to,” the butler, Face (Manoel Felciano), and his accomplices Refined (Reg Rogers) and Dol Widespread (Jennifer Sánchez) use the now-empty metropolis home to entertain a collection of holiday makers ripe for the fleecing.

There’s, for instance, Dapper, who desires a good-luck allure to enhance his playing odds and is made to imagine a easy flea, conveniently near-invisible, will do the trick. The skilled comedian actor Carson Elrod fleshes out Dapper with a veritable arsenal of mimicry and affectations that make his each look a delight.

Different targets are extra satirically pointed, just like the pious Ananias (Stephen DeRosa), who’s from “a Protestant sect banished to Holland for the crime of being good,” or the excellently named Sir Epicure Mammon (Jacob Ming-Trent, in positive type), who covets the thinker’s stone that might flip any metallic into gold — Jonson’s method is right here similar to that of Molière.

Sir Mammon’s appetites are boundless, and he’s bewitched by the suggestion {that a} single thriller phrase can set off the comely Dol right into a carnal frenzy. “He that makes the stone should be virtuous, he that buys it, probably not,” he says. “Tis the genius of Capitalism.”

Hatcher dispenses such anachronisms judiciously — a joke referring to the James Bond universe is milked for all it’s value, particularly visually — however principally he avoids the entice of over-relying on them for straightforward laughs. (The trendy mannequin of a basic play being jolted into the current stays David Ives’s “The School for Lies,” a dizzying rewriting of Molière’s “The Misanthrope.)

The dialogue usually zings, and Berger orchestrates the farcical comings and goings on Alexis Distler’s bi-level set on the requisite madcap tempo — on the efficiency I attended, the superb Rogers (who performed the director of the musical-within-the-musical in “Tootsie”) ad-libbed a line about all the steps he needed to climb.

However the present is best at establishing the plot than at resolving it once we return from intermission — it’s, in spite of everything, simpler to throw a bunch of pins up within the air than it’s to juggle them.

Fortunately, the solid members proceed to exert themselves relentlessly within the service of laughter, from mere exaggerated inflections to all-out clowning. If performing is a type of conning, theatergoers, too, are keen victims.

The Alchemist
By means of Dec. 19 on the Pink Bull Theater, Manhattan; redbulltheater.com. Working time: 2 hours.

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