“Lord, what fools these mortals be!” says Shakespeare’s Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As the characters in Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s A Little Night Music engage in their very Shakespearean trysts and romps, the quote comes to mind. Fredrik Egerman has an 18-year-old wife of 11 months, Anne, who hasn’t slept with him yet and is the love interest of Fredrik’s introverted son Henrik (a nod to Ibsen and the drawing-room familial melodramas which this play also invokes). Henrik is involved with Petra the maid, while studying to join a seminary. Fredrik, in his frustration, turns to old love Desiree Armfeldt, who has a wise old mother and a young daughter (whom Desiree is inadvertently training to be just like her, devious with men). Desiree has a lover, Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm, who is married to Charlotte, who is friends with Anne. And slyly prodding things along is Sondheim’s Greek chorus, a group of well-dressed singers who drop hints, make comments, or move the action forward. And all this is rather skillfully handled by the Village Repertory Company and The Company Company in Mt. Pleasant.
Director Maida Libkin’s strict attention to detail, with both music and staging, evocative costumes by Julie Ziff, and dreamy lighting by Dave Reinwald form a solid foundation for the actors. Performances by Keely Enright (Desiree), Catherine Cook (Charlotte), Elizabeth Bays (Petra), and Anne Von Kolnitz (Madame Armfeldt) are all dignified, convincing, and very human in their emotion.
William Schlitt, with a sonorous voice and commanding presence, makes a terrific Fredrik: mature (mostly), likeable but flawed, Fredrik stands out as the clear lead character in this production even if it is merely because of the strength of Schlitt’s portrayal.
Jamie Smithson performs excellently as Henrik, displaying perfect fumbling awkwardness and doing a grand job on his frustrated number “Later.”
Anne is prim, thrust into a life she wasn’t ready for. Laura Ball gives Anne freshness without silliness, and her pretty, fluid voice soars through the space like a Swedish night breeze.
At the playhouse’s sold-out performance Saturday night, one had trouble hearing Johanna Schlitt as Fredrika Armfeldt and some of the chorus (“the Liebeslieders”); and JC Conway (who is very funny as alpha dog Carl-Magnus) unfortunately appeared to begin having trouble with his voice, getting suddenly hoarse. With those lapses in volume, the production suffered a bit — but luckily, they seem like fixable troubles.
The five musicians, led by pianist/conductor Thomas J. White, transport the audience to Sondheim’s world where great songs like “You Must Meet My Wife,” “Every Day a Little Death,” and “Send in the Clowns,” among others, inhabit their own distinct place in musical theatre. Out-of-towners, especially, take note: the production is worth the trip over the bridge to catch some good local theatre.
A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC • Piccolo Spoleto’s Theatre Series • May 29, June 1, 7, 8, 9 at 6 p.m., June 2, 10 at 8 p.m.; June 11 at 2:30 p.m. • $22-$25 • Village Playhouse • 730 Coleman Blvd., Mt. Pleasant • 554-6060