by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

“Must despair be my only companion?”

Jon Jory’s new adaptation of Voltaire’s signature novella, Candide, launches Sacred Fools‘ 19th season, with lead actor Scott Golden as the eternal naif and a supporting cast of six, inhabiting dozens of roles in a heroic journey for intimate stage.

Jory’s alteration is a minimalist concept, envisioned with a much more “bare” set and simple storytelling compared to much of what has been showcased of late at Sacred Fools. The truly imaginative aspects are rendered within the characters and the actors who play them exquisitely.  The usual “Fools” imprimatur is covered here throughout the comedy with plenty of gags and non-sequiturs that never fall flat.  Emotionally, though, it is empty. And although entertaining enough, doesn’t necessarily cover new ground.

There is danger (which isn’t particularly dangerous), betrayal (which didn’t seem so bad), and injustice (but then new hope always prevails), in pursuit of love (he gets the girl in the end, but there’s catch) treasure (which he keeps giving away!) and despicable pleasures (we would have definitely liked to have seen more of that).  For Candide it really sucks being an optimist.

For anyone who is not familiar with the story (or the Sondheim updated version of the Bernstein original musical) of this play, it is a subversive and unpredictably humorous satire – bawdy, absurd, playful, often sarcastic and somewhat moralistic.  The piece was born through the actual experiences of François-Marie Arouet, later known as Voltaire, who grew up in a time when Louis XIV was king of France, the vast majority of people in France lived in crushing poverty, and the French aristocracy ruled with an iron fist. By the mid 1700s, Voltaire grew increasingly appalled by the specters of injustice, and inexplicable disaster that he saw around him. Many terrible events influenced his composition of Candide including a disastrous earthquake in Lisbon in 1755; the outbreak of the gruesome Seven Years’ War in 1756; and the unjust execution of the English Admiral John Byng in 1757.

Candide rides a guileless wave that scrapes through the underbelly of life and although not in any way arrives or leaves unscathed, manages to survive the horrors of poverty, misshapen adventure, death, scandal, blind love and disappointment in what he believes is the essential goodness in humanity.  Candide gives freely but is regularly rewarded with sordid acts and slimy morals of too many characters who take advantage of him.  And yet he continues to “give” putting the act of goodness and rightness above all rather than succumbing to the gutter.

What is outstanding on every level are the indefatigable, and impeccably hilarious performances by the entire cast especially Kalinda Gray and David LM McIntyre who drive the extremes of the story. An absolutely honest, light-hearted and un-fabricated Golden subtly holds the show to its ever wide-eyed finale. 

Highly creative and colorful costume design completely enhanced the program (especially for the ladies).

Jon Jory’s Candide is a very plain comedy which hits the intellectual mark.

“Do you still believe the world is fair?”

“All for the best.”

#CandideLA @SacredFools

Directed by Paul Plunkett

Produced by Danielle Ozymandias, Richard Levinson and Jaime Andrews Music by Ryan Johnson

Featuring Scott Golden as Candide along with Kalinda Gray, Cynthia Beckert, Christopher Salazar, David LM McIntyre and Paul Turbiak.

Set Design: Tifanie McQueen
Costumes: Jennifer deRosa
Props: Linas Anne Nicolai
Sound: Pul Plunkett

Photo (above): Scott Golden and David LM McIntyre in Jon Jory’s adaptation of Candide at Sacred Fools