Sunday, August 23, 2009

Passionate Kisses

It's humor befitting a musical comedy that the only criticism the Times could find in this week's performance of HMS Pinafore by CLOC was a lack of believable passion between the secondary leads. Heck - the romance between the two lead characters culminates in one kiss, a peck really, just before the show's end. The only thing the captain and his love interest could have done, in order to show less emotion than the lead pair, would have been to give each other a firm handshake. All kissy face aside, we're talking about Gilbert and Sullivan here; collaborators known far more for laughter and merriment than for believable love scenes. G&S, in fact, are known for their "topsy turvy" or unbelievable plot lines and twists.
Take Pinafore for example. As soon as one can do the math one starts figuring it out. If the captain is really Ralph, and Ralph is really the captain - that means they are both the same age. Assuming the captain was at least 20 when his daughter was born, and that Josephine is now of suitable age to marry, say 17, then that would make Ralph, her beloved, 20 years her senior - a man of 37 trying to woo a girl of 17. Not that that's anything hollywood hasn't thought of already, just cast Ralph as Harrison Ford and CLOC's all set. What troubles me is that Ralph is described by his messmates as "the smartest lad in all the fleet." Why, then, if he is so smart, has he not been able to advance his station in 37 years? Couldn't he have at least risen to the rank of second officer? Worse than being a man of low rank, he seems to be a man of little ambition.
Now try to follow along here and let's suspend our belief a little longer. If Little Buttercup practiced baby farming, "a many years ago," when Ralph and Captain Corcoran were young enough for her to have "mixed those babies up," we have to assume that she was at least 18 at the time, making her 18 years the captain's senior - a woman of 55 being wooed by a man of 37.
If we can forgive all that I think we ought to cut the actors some slack in the romance credibility department.
It seems that in a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta it is only gross disparities of rank and station that prevent one from gaining their heart's desire. Age discrepancies are no obstacle.

song: Passionate Kisses • artist: Mary Chapin Carpenter

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