THEATER REVIEW Sharp acting, humor cuts to the point

Next Act’s The Scarlet Pimpernel gives the French Revolution an MIT twist

The Scarlet Pimpernel

Next Act

Directed by Lindsey Y. Shi ’12 and Tiffany J. Lin ’11

April 7–9, 2011

George Hosker TFL, Next House

Next House presented its annual Next Act during CPW last weekend. This year’s production was The Scarlet Pimpernel, a musical based on the early 20th-century play and novel of the same name by Baroness Emmuska Orczy. The musical adaptation ran on Broadway from 1997 to 2000 and has since been performed in numerous venues across the country.

Next Act’s rendition of The Scarlet Pimpernel was entertaining and clever, with MIT-esque humor sprinkled throughout. In fact, it was possibly the best performance I’ve seen so far this year. The fact that many of the actors had little acting experience made the performance even more remarkable.

The play tells the story of Percy, a rich English nobleman — known only as the “Scarlet Pimpernel” — who has become famous in France for rescuing aristocrats from the violence of the French Revolution. However, his marriage is full of troubles and misunderstandings, and his French wife Marguerite does not initially know he is the Scarlet Pimpernel. Meanwhile, Chauvelin, an undercover agent for the revolutionaries, has been looking to find and guillotine the Scarlet Pimpernel. The story, of course, ends happily ever after.

The mood of the play was distinctly MIT-influenced — spontaneous, energetic, and unrestrained. This personality was most obviously manifested through background signs that “interpreted” the scene, including messages like “oh baby,” “snap,” “that’s what she said,” and “level up.” Some of the characters directly interacted with the audience, including a scene when women in Chauvelin’s undercover group attempted to seduce guests in the front row.

One of the most impressive features of the play was sword fighting. Directing a sword fight is dangerous, and executing one is difficult and requires precision; Next Act should be commended for incorporating them. The musical also featured some solo sections in French.

WeiYang Sun ’11’s portrayal of Percy succeeded in keeping the audience’s attention on the play’s passion, while Dorothy L. Curran ‘12 (Marguerite) should be applauded for her amazingly emotional performance. Johari Frasier ’13 (Chauvelin) created a perfect picture of evil through his posture and facial expressions. Some of the props — especially the guillotine — were particularly memorable. In another impressive scene, Percy is about to be executed, but the plan fails and a pumpkin comes out instead of a head.

Like any performance, the play was not perfect. Some of the dances in the musical sections suffered from breaks in unison, and there were several small technical problems. But these were trivial mistakes, and the genuine emotional interpretation of the play more than made up for any mishaps. The script, adapted by Kevin H. Hu ’11, was quite simplistic in a few sections but terrific overall.

Next Act’s production was exceptional in that the performance was completely uninhibited and easy for the audience to relate to. Most of the students and prefrosh in the audience could identify with MIT’s characteristic personality and humor in the musical. I’m convinced that I will be back next year.

1 Comment
Michael over 12 years ago

For anyone who saw the show Thursday or Friday and is confused, almost all of the MIT-related jokes were inserted for our Saturday show, affectionately known as "Hack Night."

Thanks, Derek, for the review! Hope you enjoy the show just as much next year. )