“Patience” originally speared the Aesthetic Movement of late nineteenth century England with quite an array of satirical barbs. Currently, however, it is being produced by the John Brown University Music Department.
The two-act piece explores the fickle nature of aestheticism as expressed through swooning maidens and self-centered poets. Meanwhile Patience meanders on stage as both the protagonist and a foil character. The title character, portrayed by the entertainingly innocent senior Amy Perry, expresses her own thoughts on love in, “I cannot tell what this love may be,” a song whose message is quite contrary to the opening chorus number, “Twenty love-sick maidens we.”
As the curtain rose, a group of perfectly-postured young women moans and muses—in delicate unison—about their lack of attention from the opposite sex. Their pleading words, carried further still by solos from The Lady Angela (Ashley Grant) and other members of the chorus pine away for Reginald Bunthorne, played by Seth Burgett.
Bunthorne is an utterly ridiculous character, in all the best ways, and embodies all of negative stereotypes often attributed to aesthetics. Burgett’s commitment to the role and spot-on comedic timing leave nothing to be desired.
Whether conniving his way into the uncertain embrace of Patience or following some other selfish trail, Bunthorne continually proves that beauty in any of its forms does not necessarily PROVIDE happiness. He is ultimately rejected several times by several different people, many times in favor of the similar-yet-different Archibald Grosvenor.
Seth Long’s effortless portrayal of Grosvenor provides many laughs and reaffirms Gilbert and Sullivan’s humorous intentions. While Long is also disturbingly vain and a relentless pursuer of the arts, there is somehow enough of a difference between him and his aesthetic nemesis to keep the plot complicated and moving forward.
In fact, my favorite relationship in the operetta is not between a man and a woman, but rather between these two rivals. I am still tickled by their dance number. Hours of rehearsal paid off as the audience pealed with laughter at the pair’s perfectly-maneuvered sashays, can-cans and heel clicks. It is over-the-top and exactly what the work calls for.
A strong supporting cast only adds to the production’s overall success. The Lieutenant Duke of Dunstable (Joel Brown), Colonel Calverley (Steven Hamilton) and Major Murgatroyd (Daniel Loganbill)are inspiring whether marching around in their military attire or prancing about in their aesthetic best. And Lady Jane (Amanda Neely) had enough persistence and wit for us all.
The student orchestra adds the final polishing touch to this rendition of “Patience.” It’s a pleasure to hear, to watch and to laugh at.