BY CLIFF KASDEN
What is the meaning of life? No idea? Perhaps the irreverent, bawdy but beautiful performers of Theater 2020 (Visions for a New Millennium) in Brooklyn Heights have an answer. Their version of “Candide” with music by Leonard Bernstein and additional lyrics by Stephen Sondheim is the road to enlightenment.
Call it an operetta or musical satire. Artistic Director David Fuller describes it as that special intersection where “guerilla theater meets morality play.” Its current geographical intersection is St. Charles Borromeo Church at the corner of Aitken and Sidney Places (between Joralemon and State Streets).
Its pews, aisles, pulpit and apse are the actual performance spaces. Co-producing artistic director/choreographer Judith Jarosz keeps the actors running and jumping throughout the staging area with effortless glee. Musical Director Ming Aldrich-Gan dominates his piano’s keyboard with magnificent dexterity and humor. Well done!
And the actors? As if in a fairy tale, pure-hearted Cunegonde (Ellie Bensinger) is perfectly pretty and hopelessly naive. Her true love Candide (Ryan Farnsworth) is perfectly handsome and equally clueless. Ms. Bensinger’s operatic voice is outstanding and she truly “gets it,” especially in her solos. Farnsworth is equally sonorous and charismatic.
These two souls are both mentored and sabotaged by very skillful characters. Greg Horton as Voltaire/Dr. Pangloss is deliciously lascivious yet wonderfully wise. His resonant voice and clever stage presence provide the required artistic adhesive that unifies this deliberately disjointed tale.
Lovely Paquette (Hallie Brevetti) willingly welcomes one particular suitor with almost acrobatic affection. Narcissistic Maximillian (T.J. Mundy-Punchard) is so preoccupied with his own chiseled good looks that he returns to life despite repeated fatal attempts on his life. Meanwhile, Old Lady (Lorinne Lampert) tells her tale of woe with a riotous combination of Mae West and a stand-up female comic.
Supporting players (Tzeitel Abrego, Erika Banks, Zack Krajnyak, Elliot Lane, Sarah Primmer, Annalize Sussman, Ben Thorpe and Malcolm Yancey) are all easy to look at and a delight to hear. Though relatively new to Brooklyn, Theater 2020/Visions for a New Millennium is already outshining other established troupes. Bravo!
This production of “Candide” runs weekends through March 9. For tickets and information, try www.brownpapertickets.com or email@example.com or www.theater2020.com or call 718-624-3614. Their next production will be along in the spring. As always, save me a seat on the aisle.