Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 21, 2012

The Betrothed

Chester Theatre Company, Chester, MA
through August 26, 2012
by Robbin M. Joyce

Chester Theater Company concludes its 23rd season, “Uncommon Love Stories,” with the regional premiere of Dipika Guha’s “The Betrothed.” This unusual love story, directed by CTC’s Artistic Director Byam Stevens, is presented in the Commedia Dell’Arte style and has the feel of a middle-eastern fairy tale in which magical realism abounds.

The staging, designed by Vicki R. Davis, sets the cartoonish tone and the music and sound effects by Tom Shread reinforce it. As the play opens, Simon is en-flight, sitting in the middle seat and talking to his invisible seat mate. It’s an utterly amusing monologue that reveals he’s going to the Old Country to meet the woman to whom he’s been betrothed for 30 years.

As he arrives at the home of his beloved, the stock characters typical to Commedia Dell’Arte begin to appear: the old hag, the lothario father and the lustful priest. What unfolds is a wacky love story with all the twists and turns of a gnarled walking stick.

Chad Hoepnner stars as Simon and is endearing as the na├»ve, eager suitor. Caitlin McDonough-Thayer is a delightful dichotomy, easily shuffling characters from the ugly, hunchback crone to her cold, beautiful daughter and back again.  John Shuman entertains as both the potion-making, gender bending Priest and the nearly silent best friend of Simon’s father. Anderson Matthews rounds out the cast as both the woman-stealing father and Simon’s future son.

“The Betrothed” is presented in a single, 90-minute showing without an intermission. It starts out strong and interesting, with comic moments that engage the audience; but the action slows down mid-show. Is this love story meant to have a moral like so many fairy tales? What is the social commentary? The audience is left wondering as the play comes to its conclusion. Perhaps the moral of the story is: in this case, magical realism is neither real nor magical.