On the Razzle

Tom Stoppard’s On the Razzle was this fall’s production of the Weston High School Theatre Company. Wikipedia’s one-sentence characterization is as good as any:

Stoppard’s farce consists of two hours of slapstick shenanigans, mistaken identities, misdirected orders, malapropisms, double entendres, and romantic complications.

Needless to say, this is a tall order for amateur actors, whether teenagers or adults. The timing of physical farce is especially difficult. Stoppard’s language is also especially difficult, being rapid and complex, and full of puns. But the students rose to the occasion, creating a convincing and very amusing performance under the direction of the inestimable John Minigan.

I don’t really want to single out particular actors, since this was definitely an ensemble work. But I still have to mention fine performances by two freshman boys, since they are a rare commodity in high-school productions — V.J. Rougeau and Ryan Hayes — as well as the excellent work of veteran performer Donya Potter, a senior girl playing a male role with apparently effortless skill and humor.

I have always been astounded at Stoppard’s control of the intricacies of English, considering that it’s not his native language. (His original name, Tomáš Straussler, makes it clear that he’s actually a Czech Jew, not the Anglo-Saxon Brit that one might imagine.) Wordplay in any language is particularly difficult if you haven’t been speaking that language from birth, and all of Stoppard’s plays are full of wordplay, including this one. (Join me at his famous work Arcadia, which I will be seeing in April for the third time. It will be performed at the Central Square Theatre in Cambridge.)

Categories: Weston