Kinetic Theatre's Scapino is an intense, comedic trip into the world of modern crime | Theater | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Kinetic Theatre's Scapino is an intense, comedic trip into the world of modern crime

click to enlarge Kinetic Theatre's Scapino is an intense, comedic trip into the world of modern crime
Photo: Rocky Raco
Phillip Taratula as Sylvester, Jeffrey Binder as Scapino, and David Whalen as Don Albert in Scapino
The amount of energy onstage in Kinetic Theatre’s Scapino could power the city of Naples, Fla. for a decade. Every member of the eight-person cast is operating at 100 percent intensity, 100 percent of the time, delivering complex plots, marriage proposals, and reams of exposition at a pace way, way above the speed limit. Is it too much? Depends on how easily you get carsick.

Actor/playwright Jeffrey Binder joins Kinetic along with his script, a modern adaptation of Molière’s Les Fourberies de Scapin, for the second-ever production of Scapino, directed by Kinetic’s artistic director Andrew Paul. In Binder’s version, the schemer Scapino (Binder) is a fresh-out-of-the-pen lawyer caught up in the drama between two mafia families as their patriarchs (Wesley Mann and Pittsburgh favorite David Whalen) attempt to arrange a marriage between their children. When things go awry and death threats start flying thick and fast between the two families, Scapino steps in with a promise to clean everything up — cleaning up for himself along the way with a briefcase or two full of cash. Bada bing, bada boom.

The decision to set a mafia story on a beach in Florida, much like the decision to adapt Molière as a mafia story in the first place, is an odd one — but one that is easy to go along with. Why not? The sandy beachfront set makes the play feel a little like a vacation, and it makes the sweat that’s frequently visible on the actors’ brows feel that much more natural.

Bada bing, bada boom.

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Binder’s found extensive comedy can be derived from members of modern crime families acting like characters in a 17th-century play. They fall in love in seconds, toss off asides to the audience, and soliloquize extensively about their motivations. Scenes with ostensibly high stakes (e.g., any scene where a character pulls out a gun or a baseball bat) are handily blunted by the audience’s knowledge that we’re watching a comedy. And not only a comedy, but one with a plot largely ripped from a 300-year-old story, meaning that of course the play is going to end in a double wedding.

Scapino’s high energy and breakneck dialogue, though tiring at points, twist around into a good joke often enough to make the play a fun and funny night at the theater. And if you sit in the front row, you might get the chance, as I and two other women at my performance did, to go at an actor playing a notorious mafia Don with a pool noodle while he cowers inside a sack. Reader, we whacked him.

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