'Italian Straw Hat' brightens Dailey

Campus Times
April 30, 1999


by Nune Gazdhyan
Assistant Features Editor

A wedding is a day to remember, a day to cherish and a day to run all around France looking for "An Italian Straw Hat." Mistaken identities, confusion and bad luck greets the players at every twist and turn of the plot. This is one action-packed, slanderous and up beat wedding that all should witness.

"An Italian Straw Hat" is brimming with farce. The French play, written in 1851 by Eugene Labiche, revolves around Fadinard (Tom Moose), who spends his wedding day in a mad rush to replace Anaîs' (Jessica Wotherspoon) hat that his horse has eaten at the park where Anaîs was having a fling with Emile Travernier (LaVelle Wilson) while trying to keep the gendarmes at bay and hide the crisis from his bride-to-be Helene (April Shenkman) and her family. The mad search is generated by Tavernier who is too much the man to allow Fadinard the pleasure of getting away without paying for the damages caused by the horse. Therefore, Fadinard must replace the straw hat, wedding or not.

This action-packed, sweat-running, breath-taking play embarked upon the University of La Verne and is directed by Georgij Paro, the head of the Croatian National Theater in Zagreb, Croatia. He is the country's most renowned director. As visiting adjunct professor of Theater Arts at ULV, this is Paro's 10th production here.

The play which opened last Thursday will be performed until tomorrow. It costs $8 for general admission and $5 for students. It is well worth the price. In fact, it is too cheap for all the laughter it generates.

From the minute the curtains unveil the disoriented groom, the deaf uncle, Vezinet (Don Pollock), the father-in-law, Noinacourt (Scott Fowler), and of course Bobin, the perverted cousin of the bride-to-be (Beaux Enriquez), draw the audience into the play.

Paro did an incredible job of assembling the cast. All the performers were well-suited for their role. Many of them have experience under their belts, and the few beginners were exceptional and could fool anyone into thinking that they were in the theater for years.

It is always rewarding to see a production that is well-organized, well-acted out and entertaining.

Moose was great. His exasperation from running around did not slow him down or wear him out. Although probably much skinnier than when he began the play, he was able to impress the audience with his talent playing the piano. He played the piano as if it was natural and effortless.

"This is one incredible play. I love it. It really gets me laughing, especially Fadinard. I wanted to see this play because I have seen previous plays here at La Verne, and I really enjoyed them all," said Christopher Gielen, a sophomore biology major at Citrus College.

The set was an adventure all in its own. The multi-colored, psychedelic furniture was a nice change from the typical bland.

Kudos to all the actors and actresses. They were well-rehearsed and prepared. Their roles fit naturally. Had there been any mistakes in the play, the audience would never have noticed. The suave moves of the characters would be able to convince the audience of anything. If a UFO landed on the stage and abducted the cast, the audience would think nothing of it.

"I love it [the play], it's so funny. They chose the perfect actors for the characters," said sophomore computer science major Paulino Alonso.

The chase throughout France to locate the cursed straw hat took many unexpected and hilarious twists and turns, and with every new adventure, it got even more exciting. With the wedding party at his tail and a father-in-law who screams, "My son, the wedding is off!" at every chance he gets. Fadinard gets in one trouble after another. All brought on to him by his careless lifestyle.

Fadinard meets up with an old flame, Clara (Jennifer Holindrake) who has opened up a shop and is known for making hats. Unaware that Fadinard is about to get married, she immediately wants to re-kindle their old flame. Of course, Fadinard leads her on in an effort to have her make him a straw hat.

As the two go to the back room to get "re-acquainted' the wedding party walks in. Bobin discovers the groom kissing Clara, but the shock dispenses when the groom explains that Clara is his cousin ... Ahem!

Since Bobin has an obsession with his own cousin and is often all over her, the wedding party accepts Fadinard's promiscuous behavior.

After the quick halt at the shop, the wedding party picks up its heels and runs after the groom once more.

The groom ends up at the house of the Baroness de Champigney (Nicole Andlaw) and is greeted by her cousin Achille de Rosalba (Obren Milanovic). Achille de Rosalba, a rather odd fellow, assumes that the groom is the famous musician for whom they had been waiting. Of course, not wasting any time, Fadinard assumes the identity in an effort to claim the hat from the Baroness.

While he is able to mesmerize the guest with his tunes, he is unable to get the hat. It has been given away by the Baroness to her niece.

The travels pick up once more, and the groom keeps on getting in one trouble after another.

While his situation seems hopeless, there is hope, and eventually things turn out fine. A straw hat is found, replacing the original one, in the least expected place of all. The rest is a mystery and giving away the plot is not an option.

For all theater lovers and the rest of the population that wants to spend an evening laughing, "An Italian Straw Hat" is the perfect choice. It is only two and a half hours long with a 15-minute intermission. The play might sound like it is long, but it unfolds quickly and leaves the audience wanting more. Go see this hilarious play, if for nothing else, but to admire how much talent the actors and actresses, fellow ULV students, have.