The Gamester is a clever modernized version of a play set in the 18th century Paris, France, and is brilliantly done in rhyming couplets. It’s so enjoyably saucy, you’ll find yourself laughing all the way through a performance that has many unpredictable twists and turns!
Handsome gamester, Valere (Rafael Cansino), who can have any woman he desires, loves Angelique (McKenzie Eckels), who returns his love. But, Valere’s compulsive gambling prevents Angelique from accepting his marriage proposal.
Valere’s wealthy father, Thomas (David Hunt Stafford), deplores his son’s shabby living conditions, debt-laden, addictive life, and threatens to disown and cut him off if he doesn’t quit gambling. Valere’s loyal, protective manservant Hector (James Schendel, who makes witty asides to the audience), suggests Valere offer his “services” again in exchange for money, to insatiable, whip-wielding Madame Securite (Elain Rinehart—who often steals the show with her performances). Valere reluctantly agrees, and consoles himself by saying, “They’re all the same in the dark!” The ensuing scene and bawdy romp behind a flimsily veiled four-poster bed is chokingly hilarious!
At pertinent moments throughout, skilled director Jules Aaron has the actors freeze so the audience’s attention can focus on the immediate scene at hand. Great lighting effects, (Ric Zimmerman) and appropriate, short music clips add to the mood of the moment, as do the gorgeous period-appropriate costumes, wigs, masks and fans (designer Michelle Young). Fast-paced and superbly acted by the entire cast, (who are obviously deriving great enjoyment from their roles in the rollicking farce), the woven story of love, lust, treachery, intrigue, and thwarted plans captures and holds one’s attention throughout.
Angelique’s older sister, Mme. Argante (Maria Spassoff, fabulous acting), also loves Valere—but as you’ll find, there’s no simple answer to any intricacies of the love machinations! The Marquis de Fauxpaus (Scott Facher, hysterical in his role) is a serious contender for her hand. Although Valere promises Angelique he will quit gambling, he loses to temptation, disguises himself and spends the evening at the casino. Angelique, suspecting he has succumbed, goes to the casino disguised as a man, and some pricelessly entertaining scenes take place around the gambling tables. She carries off a great persona change—from gentle, mild Angelique to Man-in-the-casino. She recognizes Valere (information is given us in asides)—several people are plotting his failure! Will he conquer his addiction and can their love survive?
Sexy Madame Securite too is at the casino, waiting for a big loser so she can fulfill her desires, and, in her words, “Bing, bang, and pay them 50 Francs!”
It’s hard to select anyone for special mention from such a great cast—so I’ll just say “Bravo” to everyone involved in producing “The Gamester.”
What are you waiting for? Get your tickets to see this fabulous show!
What: “The Gamester.” Los Angeles Premiere of a romantic comedy.
Who: Written by Freyda Thomas. Inspired by “Le Jouer” by Jean François Regnard.
Directed by Jules Aaron. Produced by David Hunt Stafford for Theatre 40.
Photos: Ed Krieger
When: July 24 to August 24, 2014. Thursday to Saturday at 8 PM, Sunday at 2 PM.
Reservations: (310) 364 0535. Online ticketing at Theatre 40
Where: Theatre 40 in the Reuben Cordoba Theatre, 241 S. Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90212. Ample free parking beneath the theatre. The venue is on the campus of Beverly Hills high school. Theatre 40 is a professional company.