Opera com­edy is promis­ing but doesn’t sing

Los Angeles Times - - Calendar - David C. Ni­chols cal­en­dar@latimes.com

“Don Gio­vanni Tonight, Don Carlo To­mor­row” is the um­brella ti­tle for a re­gional opera com­pany’s cur­rent fes­ti­val. The bick­er­ing cho­ris­ters who pop­u­late Den­nis Miles’ am­bi­tious com­edy at Sa­cred Fools don’t al­ways know which night is which. Nei­ther does the play.

Work­ing in post-Altman lines of mul­ti­ple char­ac­ters with over­lap­ping di­a­logue, Miles has done his Opera 101 home­work, fac­toids abound­ing. Whether the unPC vul­gar­i­ties also crop­ping up around Ter­ence McFad­den’s im­pres­sive set mir­ror a pro­vin­cial opera dress­ing room is de­bat­able. They feel rather more typ­i­cal of, well, an Eq­uity-waiver theater, and the vir­tual ab­sence of vo­cal­iz­ing scarcely evokes mi­lieu.

More­over, Miles’ con­tra­pun­tal nar­ra­tive doesn’t co­here. Act 1 nom­i­nally fol­lows a so­prano (the valiant Kimberly Atkin­son), fired by the har­ried man­ager (Joseph Beck) for mouthing her lines. Her ri­vals (Shirley An­der­son and a bone-dry Jen­nifer Kenyon) covet the lat­est Lothario (Bob Simp­son, un­der­used). The ar­rival of the star (a non-speak­ing guest role, Tay­lor Ne­gron at the re­viewed per­for­mance) her­alds in­ter­mis­sion.

Act 2 segues into in­creas­ingly sur­real ter­rain, with Greg Walls’ Gorky-fla­vored di­ver­tisse­ment mid­way through al­most an­other play al­to­gether. Any­one who can ex­plain the bioter­ror­ism coda de­serves a box at Covent Gar­den.

You can’t fault the large, tal­ented en­sem­ble, with Mar­i­anne Davis’ sex­pot, Gre­gory Guy Gor­don’s trivia-drop­per, Ronni Valen­tine’s overeater and Gre­gory Sims’ hyper-in­tense artiste among the stand­outs. Di­rec­tor Kiff Scholl has few peers at keep­ing us in­trigued, and his de­sign­ers are adept, par­tic­u­larly cos­tumer Niki Parrish and light­ing de­signer Matt Richter. But, as Mozart and Verdi re­peat­edly re­vised the tit­u­lar op­eras, so Miles should re­think this promis­ing but in­con­clu­sive im­broglio.

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