So this next semester I have a scholarship to be a dramaturg for the theater department, which is both cool and maybe not-so-cool? Cool because I love dramaturgy, not-so because we’re doing a really kind of cheap adaptation of Beaumarchais’ “The Marriage of Figaro,” which is a good play with a lot in it that does not deserve to be cheapened as such.
I’m supposed to really be dramaturging this script, but I frankly don’t like it, and moreover, it’s… shallow enough that there really isn’t a whole lot for me to do. So maybe I’ll just write my own adaptation, which would really not be much of an adaptation since the original is so good, but rather a plan on how it should be staged and presented.
“The Marriage of Figaro” is the sequel to “The Barber of Seville,” which is a pretty standard witty farce with all sorts of disguises, misunderstandings, plots, and cleverness. It’s smart and fun, but not a great deal more than that. There are a ton of comedies from that period like it. “Marriage” is “Barber,” and by extension, comedy in general, grown up. The characters are older and are living with the consequences of their cleverness in “Barber.” It’s still a comedy, with its moments of farce, but it’s a great deal more than that as well. For one thing, because it is more… grounded, I guess in the problems of the real world, of the unfairness of the aristocracy, the right to have something/someone others cannot have, the right to personal space and privacy, and the flaws we carry with us that those who love us see, know will not change, and nevertheless forgive us for.
So some ideas for how I’d stage it:
open with a brief manic summary of the events of “The Barber of Seville,” maybe using some of the music from the opera – stressing the farcical cleverness, the social/comedic roles of all of the characters, and the tidy clever ending. setting up the audience’s expectations, in a way. the rest of the play is the subversion of that expectation as the “happily ever after” hinted at in “Barber” is revealed for the darker, more emotionally complex world of “Marriage,” in which the trickster of “Barber” becomes the romantic lead, and the romantic lead from “Barber” is very loath to give up that role. the characters are older and more real, more vulnerable. i’d probably want to use a bit of the music from the opera of “Marriage,” again to set up that contrast, because Mozart’s music for it really borders more on devotional music, transcendental forgiveness for the sorry state of humanity, while the music of “Barber” is like the comedy: clever and pleased with its own cleverness.
So anyway these are just thoughts.