Employing playful and inventive staging, director Julia Rodriguez-Elliott maximizes the Italian commedia dell'arte roots of 17th-century French playwright Molière's zany farce. Exposing the acting troupe's dressing rooms upstage, concealing certain incidental characters with masks and enlisting attention-seeking lighting effects (courtesy of designer Ken Booth) all add to the madcap fun.
Richard Wilbur's translation of Molière's obscure comedy, circa 1655, slightly updates the language while preserving the rhyming couplets and witty wordplay. In the dazzlingly convoluted scenario, wily manservant Mascarille (JD Cullum) concocts numerous elaborate schemes to help his dim-witted master, Lelie (Michael A. Newcomer), win the girl of his dreams, Célie (Emily Kosloski), away from the wealthy old gentleman to whom she is promised. But the ingenuous Lelie has a gift for interfering, continually undoing all of Mascarille's best-laid plans, much to the latter's hair-tearing frustration.
Mascarille's unscrupulous talents include deft pickpocketing and elaborate improvised lies, while his ruses include a feigned funeral and hilariously adopting the disguise of a Swiss boardinghouse landlord.
Rodriguez-Elliott sprinkles the play with original musical interludes (all composed by David O) and makes good use of a roving tuba player (Kabin Thomas) who amusingly punctuates various comedic moments. There's a lot going on throughout, but The Bungler is a fun-filled romp guaranteed to give you hysterics. —Pauline Adamek
THE BUNGLER | By Jean Baptiste Molière, adapted by Richard Wilbur | A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena | In rep, call for schedule | Through May 27 | (626) 356-3100 | anoisewithin.org