Editors' pick

Gallantry: a Soap Opera in One Act

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Editorial Review

Capital Fringe Festival: Opera Alterna’s ‘Gallantry’

By Joe Banno
Sunday, July 10, 2011

Douglas Moore’s slight, satirical, 1958 opera, “Gallantry,” is pretty benign fare for the often edgy, unpredictable Capital Fringe Festival. At barely a half-hour in length, it gently spoofs the conventions of radio and early-TV soap operas — specifically the overheated, hospital-based variety — right down to the live, in-studio commercials that were common at the time.

Composed in a folksy strain of operatic Americana, it feels like something excavated from some Paleolithic Age of popular entertainment. To their credit, the members of chamber-sized ensemble Opera Alterna have added a layer of post-millennial wink-wink-nudge-nudge to their piano-accompanied Fringe production at the Warehouse Theatre (running through July 19). Director AMC Clapp has devised a sly, gleefully smutty staging filled with visual gags involving scantily clad, off-camera nurses studying for the GRE, hokey choreography interrupted by twinges of appendicitis and hospital staff locked in soft-core-porn tableaus. (The advertising proclaims nudity, but if any actually occurred it must have been an easily missed nanosecond’s-worth.)

The comedy works in large part thanks to some skilled deadpanning from a mostly college-age cast. If the voices here are widely variable in quality and heft, there’s some notably pleasing and word-sensitive singing to be heard from lyric-baritone James Rogers as Dr. Gregg. But the show belongs to Emily Casey’s Nurse Lola. With her helium-voiced soubrette-soprano, stunning looks, flawless comic timing and a naughty-nurse costume that deserves its own billing, Casey channels the best of the big-hearted, bubble-headed comic heroines of the past, and provides the show with an IV of adrenaline.