Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Grand Canyon University
Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule

Also see Gil's reviews of James and the Giant Peach, Mary Poppins, West Side Story, The Exorcist Has No Legs, Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin and Man of La Mancha

Ryan Usher, Taylor Kortman, and Kayana Hudson
Photo by Darryl Webb / Grand Canyon University
Grand Canyon University just concluded their two week run of Scapin, Bill Irwin and Mark O'Donnell's adaptation of Molière's classic 17th-century farce. This fast paced and very funny production proved perfect fodder to display the fine comedic abilities of the young GCU cast.

The plot centers on the servant Scapin and his attempts to swindle two parents, one who is his master, out of money in order to ensure their sons end up with the girls whom they love, and not the partners their parents have picked for them. It is a simple plot, but Irwin and O'Donnell's adaptation adds plenty of fun current updates and modern language to Molière's original play and the end result is a bright and breezy comic delight.

Director Michael Kary elicited fine comical performances from his entire cast, led by Ryan Usher as Scapin. Usher had no problem in portraying the scheming, confident, and wily sides of his character with glee along with an added constant wink and nod to the audience and, like the entire cast, threw himself into the role with senseless abandonment. Kary also chose to cast a few of the male roles with female students, which added another updated twist. He also ratcheted up the comic action with a series of seemingly neverending gags, plenty of visual humor, and moments of slapstick that, when combined with Irwin and O'Donnell's adaptation, made this over three-hundred-year-old play seem completely fresh and modern.

While the cast of this show was truly an ensemble, and a well-oiled one at that, there were a few actors whose characters had more comical moments or who elevated their parts with sheer lunacy. As Sylvester, servant to the other parent, Kayana Hudson was skillfully adept in playing the silly and very funny character. One of her many highlights was when she had to portray a thug and got so carried away in the role that she started reciting lines from well-known films while over-acting the lines all over the stage. Jeremiah Byrne proved a perfect foil as the father of one of the boys whose increasingly growing rotund figure was used for great comic effect, especially when being beaten with a large loaf of bread. While Taylor Kortman played the son Octave as a grown-up cry baby, with a pinwheel hat, his over the top delivery made the sniveling, complaining man-child into a hilarious character. Cole Brackney as the non-speaking, on-stage sound effects man Gary, was able to share in the fun, not only with his continual, well-timed, and well executed and very humorous musical effects (even including a cowbell at one point) but also with his expressive facial expressions and reactions to the comic events happening in front of him. Brackney's often hilarious reactions were almost like having an audience member on stage, reacting with the audience to the hilarity surrounding us.

The creative elements were simple yet worked well to complement the comedy on stage. Amber Moldrem's smart set design included a two-story building with windows that were used for several comic moments. The somewhat vaudeville-inspired costumes of Nola Yergen appeared to be from a series of mismatched shows, but the fact that they weren't all similar worked in their ability to elevate the humor, and Klay Wandalear's lighting was bright and clear.

GCU's energetic production was full of funny sequences with several laugh out loud moments and the end result was a simply delightful Scapin, full of scams, disguises, wisecracks, and characters played with relish by the well-directed GCU student cast.

Scapin performed at Grand Canyon University's Ethington Theatre from October 9th, 2015 through October 18th, 2015. The theatre is located at 3300 W. Camelback Road in Phoenix and ticket and performance information for their upcoming productions can be found at or by calling 602-639-8880.

Adapted from Molière by Bill Irwin and Mark O'Donnell
Director: Michael Kary
Scenic Designer/Properties Designer: Amber Moldrem
Lighting Designer: Klay Wandalear
Costume Designer: Nola Yergen
Hair and Makeup Designers: Kayana Hudson
Sound Designer: Briana Thompson

Scapin: Ryan Usher
Sylvester: Kayana Hudson
Argante: Ashley Wagaman
Geronte: Jeremiah Byrne
Hyacinth: Amber Warner
Zerbinette: Stacy Smith
Leander: Trevor Penzone
Octave: Taylor Kortman
Nerine: Brenna Warren
Gary: Cole Brackney
Clowns: Hayden Domenico, Beau Hagerty

--Gil Benbrook

Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for Phoenix

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