OLNEY — An amusing production of “Fickle” is running at the Olney Theatre based on the French play “The Double Inconstancy.” In the play, a prince, his servants and countryside peasants interact together in a series of comical twists.
“Fickle” begins when a prince falls for for a peasant girl named Silvia (Kathryn Tkel) and kidnaps both her and her husband, Harlequin (Andy Reinhardt), bringing them to his castle.
The Prince, played by Christopher Dinolfo, is a naïve fellow who enjoys wearing costumes and thinks that impersonating others is the way to win over Silvia’s heart. Meanwhile, Harlequin as the starved peasant is played for laughs since he is obsessed with eating cheese throughout the play.
The main cast is accompanied by the elderly Lord (Mark Jaster), whose running gag is to stumble off stage, accompanied by large crashes. Alyssa Wilmoth Keegan plays Flaminia, the headstrong maidservant who assists the Prince in his schemes and Tonya Beckman plays Lisette, Flaminia’s snarky friend obsessed with beauty marks.
“Fickle,” akin to the previous production of “The Mikado,” has the consistent theme of fourth-wall breaks through segments like Lisette’s makeup tutorial on beauty mark placement and pop music solos with French lyrics.
Audience participation elevates the humorous elements of the play, like when Lisette flirts with an audience member on stage or when the Lord pines to the audience about his inability to find a woman who will love him and his large fortune.
However, the pop culture references are not ham-handed, playing a backseat to the humorous interactions of the characters and their personality clashes.
These references are limited to the musical solos and small details in the dialogue, which maintains the French atmosphere of the play’s origins while grounding the story in the present. This makes the humor relevant rather than esoteric.
The play keeps the risqué sexual humor of French theater, giving “Fickle” its bite and reminds audiences that this play is inspired by the farcical humor of the time. Harlequin gives an off-handed remark about dresses and bells (not going to go into much more detail as the jokes can get quite dirty).
The good-natured Silvia is humorously performed by Tkel, whose unlikely transformation into a princess is comical as she becomes drunk with power, like when she becomes somewhat sadistic in her commands for the Prince to bow before her, who gladly obliges (another, more-subtle example of dirty humor).
Reinhardt shines as the clumsy gourmand, taking every opportunity to take a bite of whatever food someone is holding or cracking fourth-wall-breaking jokes at the other characters. Possibly his most humorous attribute is his disregard for Silvia, his supposed love, in favor of food.
Like “The Mikado,” “Fickle” is based on a historic play, which is difficult when humor from that period is not always relevant in the present. Not only that, but “Fickle” is based on a French play, which means that some cultural humor can get lost in translation.
Despite the challenges, the cast does a commendable job at keeping the humor relevant while doing a nod to French theater. For this, they should be applauded.
“Fickle” runs at Olney Theatre through March 26th. Runtime is approximately one hour and 15 minutes. Tickets are $60-70 (check olneytheatre.org for details.) Address: 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Rd. Call 301-924-3400 or visit olneytheatre.org for reservations.