by Emile de & Victorien Sardoust
Friday, November 13, 1998 Los Angeles Times
Insightful Performances Give a Timely Lift to Divorcons by Philip Brandes
Given the high failure rate we’ve come to take for granted in contemporary marriages, it’s a bit startling to contemplate wedded life without an escape clause. The impact of legalized divorce on relations between men and women fuels the wry romantic satire of’ Divorcons” (Let’s Get a Divorce), an 1880 French farce by Victorien Sardou and Emile de Najac, in Pacific Resident Theatre’s smart and very funny revival. Amid the social upheaval posed by France’s impending passage of its first divorce laws, well-off couple Henri (Steve Vinovich) and Cyprienne (Reamy Hall) ingeniously solve the stagnant torpor into which their two-year marriage has sunk. While the plot ripples with lechery, adultery and deceit-all the requisites of bedroom farcethese two insightful performances transcend the formulaic to deliver a hilariously timely lesson about taking feelings for granted. An eloquent advocate for the emotional freedom denied women of her era, Cyprienne toys with yielding to the advances of a vain, callous seducer (a wickedly oily Michael Crider), who tries to further his chances by spreading a false report that the divorce law already has been enacted. Discovering the ruse, Henri turns the tables by not only pretending to accept die news, but in an astonishingly witty discussion he amiably encourages the divorce and pushes Cyprienne into the arms of her forbidden lover. In the process he saddles the rogue with all the baggage of an official suitor and cloaks himself in the challenging allure of feigned disinterest With her forbidden passion suddenly reduced [0 conventional courtship, and faced with a step down in social class, Cyprienne discovers her newfound liberation is not without its penalties. While the second act favors conventional slapstick over emotional nuance, its increasingly frenzied zaniness is deftly executed. As the newly separated husband and wife escape for a secret tryst at a elegant restaurant, a simple scene change is transformed into a comic ballet brilliantly choreographed by Howard Shangraw (who plays the long-suffering mature d’). Jennifer Taub, Colleen Kelly and Jaxon Duff Gwillim supply particularly keen supporting performances. Caroline McWilliams” staging is traditional enough to leave no doubt about the ensemble’s facility with the period genre, yet shrewdly infuses a modernist spin to keep this romp fresh, lively and unexpectedly thoughtful.
-PHILIP BRANDES “Divorcons,” Pacific Resident Theatre, 705% Venice Blvd., Venice. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Ends Dec. 20. $20. (213) 660-TKTS. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes.