Laugh inn

MIRANDOLINA by Carlo Goldoni, directed by Laszlo Marton, with Kristen Thomson, Stuart Hughes, Richard Zeppieri, Diego Matamoros, Michael Simpson,.


MIRANDOLINA by Carlo Goldoni, directed by Laszlo Marton, with Kristen Thomson, Stuart Hughes, Richard Zeppieri, Diego Matamoros, Michael Simpson, Diana Leblanc, Jennifer Gould and Paul Manz. Presented by Soulpepper at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre (231 Queens Quay West). Runs to September 25, Monday-Saturday (except September 25) at 8 pm, matinees Wednesday and Saturday 2 pm. $30-$49, stu $25, limited same-day rush $5-$18. 416-973-4000. Rating: NNN

You want sexy and funny? Look no further than Kristen Thomson ‘s delicious performance as the title character in Mirandolina, Soulpepper‘s staging of the 1750s Carlo Goldoni comedy.

Set in a Florentine inn, the piece deals with the various men besotted with its owner, Mirandolina. The exception is the Cavaliere (Stuart Hughes), who thinks women are only trouble.

He’d rather have a good hunting dog. Of course, Mirandolina sets her sights on him, much to the consternation of her other suitors.

Despite a winning scenario, the production has its problems. Director Laszlo Marton sometimes moves the action with comedy-draining slowness, and occasionally he has encouraged performers to work on shtick rather than character.

That’s never the case with the performances of Thomson and Hughes, whose scenes together are wonderful. As the flirtatious mistress of the inn, Thomson achieves a seemingly oxymoronic combination of sensual coyness and emotional truth – call it a heartfelt playfulness. Hughes’s Cavaliere begins with a boyish braggart’s swagger but soon starts melting into a yoyo relationship with the heroine. He’s drawn to her despite his misgivings.

There’s also good work by Diego Matamoros as a self-centred nobleman, Michael Simpson as a competitive, nouveau-riche gent (they’re often feuding over their landlady), and Richard Zeppieri as her incendiary servant. Jennifer Gould and Diana Leblanc do nice cameos as conniving actors playing at being high-born ladies.

It’s not until the end of the first act that the action and the comedy begin percolating, and by the second act Goldoni’s setup begins to pay off, though at times it feels like he’s giving us comic business instead of plot. But wait for the ending, when Mirandolina gets an unexpected mate and Thomson skilfully sounds several new emotional notes in the already bewitching character.

jonkap@nowtoronto.com

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