Dispatches From the Edge

Rounding Up the 2001 FronteraFest Long Fringe

The Many Loves of Columbina

by I Megalomani

The Off Center

Running Time: 35 min

In the mathematics of sex, 1 gal = 3 guys. That's certainly the way that Aaron Johnson has the equation figured in his new scenario for I Megalomani, the performance arm of the Austin Commedia Society. The Columbina of the title may be a servant, but she is nevertheless so bright, funny, and sexually voracious that one man alone can't satisfy her; it takes a trio to ring her bell. Thus, she keeps standing assignations with the learned old Dottore, his hunky offspring Leandro, and their puppy dog of a hired man, Pedrolino -- or as Johnson wittily dubs them: Father, Son, and Hokey Servant -- none of whom know he's part of a league of lovers. Watching this wily she slyly manipulate these clueless towers of testosterone in thrall to her -- especially in the person of the sultry-voiced Genevive Salmon -- is enough to convince even a lifelong peno-American like myself that a man opposite a woman will never add up.

But this show is more than She's Gotta Have It in Renaissance attire. Johnson has crammed it with farcical complications, Wayne's World flashbacks, pratfalls, and even a brief lecture on pornography as the engine for economic and technological progress, delivered by the author. It's the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach that distinguishes the work of these commedia revivalists. As with a Warner Bros. cartoon, the setting isn't nearly as important as the gags, which come at you like a flurry of Nolan Ryan fastballs.

This is I Megalomani's eighth show (it's making its second appearance in the Long Fringe), and it still feels like a young company -- a tad anxious to please and ever so slightly over-rehearsed. The performers' love for this neglected comedic form is evident in the way the performers have carefully worked out the choreography for the slapstick bits that constitute so much of the troupe's frivolity, and that's to their credit, but some of these pieces are still performed a smidgen too neatly; the sense of unforeseen chaos that provokes our bellies to heaving is absent. The troupe is at its best when it loosens up and enjoys itself in the manner of Kate Meehan. As Smirildina, one of those cheerfully dim-witted servants who seem pleased as punch to have the wind whistling between their ears, Meehan exhibits a looseness of limb and endearing imbecility that make her seem more than a student of the form: a true artist of it. (Thursday, Feb. 1, 5:45pm; Sunday, Feb. 4, 5:15pm)

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