October 31, 2010

Don’t Be So Melodramatic

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The Melodramatics Theatre Company, Inc. will bring some “Great Big Stuff” to the stage with its latest production, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, opening Nov. 11 and running through Nov. 20.

The witty and energetic musical, based on the 1988 film staring Steve Martin and Michael Caine, opens on Lawrence Jameson, a con artist who earns a living by seducing and scamming wealthy women, on the French Riviera. When he encounters Freddy Benson — a small-time con up to the same game — the two team up. They meet a woman who throws them both for a loop and, as MTC Assistant Director Timothy Dyster ’12 said, “Hilarity ensues from there.”

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is at once uproariously funny and surprisingly eloquent, driving home the twisted ending with humor and harmony.

Dyster added, “It’s demented, in a way.”

“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is an over-the-top musical that is tons of fun but still manages to have some poignant moments,” said Ithaca College Junior Eric Haygreen, who is starring as Lawrence Jameson.

The cast of 12 spans the gap between Cornell and Ithaca College. MTC is entirely student-run; since the group receives funding from the Student Assembly Finance Committee, the president is always a Cornell student, but the staff and cast come from both ends of Ithaca.

“The fact that were using an art form to bridge a gap between schools and different types of people [is encouraging],” Dyster said.

For this production — MTC’s thirteenth show — all three lead actors are Ithaca College students.

Haygreen easily affects the role of Jameson, the smooth-talking and sophisticated Brit. Junior Danny Bristoll is lively and jovial as Benson, really blowing the lid off the role with the outrageous number “All About Ruprecht” in Act One. Sophomore Sarah Charles captures the stage at once as female lead Christine Colgate, making an entrance and changing the tone of the show with her exciting first number “Here I Am.”

The culminating show definitely succeeds in entertaining the audience and is anything but dull.

“Honestly, it’s hilarious,” Director Bryan Botti ’11 said. “I watch it every day and it doesn’t get old.”

While the show’s plot is somewhat predictable and left wanting in originality, the MTC cast’s performance shows a level of professionalism often lacking in student productions, which is exactly what Dyster and Bristoll said the organization strives for.

In light of recent University cuts to Theatre, Film and Dance programs, Dyster stressed the importance of student performing arts groups to provide the Cornell and Ithaca community with a professional level of arts and entertainment.

“The cuts are tragic,” Dyster said. “[But] I think it’s an opportunity for student theater organizations to step up to the plate.”

Both staff and cast members emphasized the pivotal role MTC plays in their lives.

“I don’t feel like I’m working for a group, I feel like I’m working as a group,” Botti said. “This is my major outlet for expressing myself,” he added.

Bristoll said MTC gives him freedom of expression free from the oversight of faculty in the theatre programs at Ithaca College, allowing him to grow as an actor and artist.

Haygreen echoed this sentiment.

“I’m a Drama B.A. so […] I don’t get a lot of opportunity to perform main stage shows. Student-produced theatre gives a lot of opportunity for people like me.”

MTC has been performing since 2004 and is an official 501(c)3 non-profit organization for the arts. The group puts on one show each semester.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels will run Nov. 11, 12, 13, 18, 19 and 20 in Risley Theatre.

Director Bryan Botti encouraged Cornellians to come out to the show and experience the comedic production for themselves. After all, he said, “Who doesn’t want to be dirty and rotten sometimes?”

Original Author: Dani Neuharth-Keusch