TRIUMPHANT TRIO: Making their angelic way through the world.
“We have reality, and we have the appearance of reality,” says convict Joseph (Mark S. Cartier) to hapless shop-owner Felix Ducotel (Frank Omar), justifying why he’s about to cook the store’s books and save Felix’s job. The messy and debt-ridden ledger, explains Joseph, is not the real reality of Felix’s highly moral but helplessly inept character. These sketchy numbers suggest a thief! A lecher! Joseph just wants to make the figures reflect Felix’s best qualities. “Armed with my books,” he promises, “you’ll go forth and make the books come true!”
|My Three Angels | by Sam and Bella Spewack | Directed by Janis Stevens | Produced by the Theater at Monmouth | in repertory through Aug 24 | 207.933.9999 |
This wickedly, whimsically elastic take on ethics is what Joseph and his two fellow convicts, Alfred (Will Harrell) and Jules (Aaron B. Coleman) bring to the Ducotel business and household, in the wry comedy My Three Angels (directed by Janis Stevens at the Theater at Monmouth). On this hot Christmas Eve in the penal colony of French Guiana, the good Ducotel family’s lot could certainly use some improvement: Felix’s evil uncle/boss Henri (Ralph A. Barnes) has just descended on the island to strip him and his wife Emilie (Maureen Tannian Butler) of their livelihood. He’s also brought along his tool of a nephew, Paul (Mike Anthony), who’s engaged to a wealthy “cow” (as Henri puts it) but who nevertheless holds the heart of Ducotel daughter Marie Louise (Jessica Pohly). Luckily for almost everyone, the three cons come down from fixing the family’s roof and lend their angelic moral ambiguity toward getting the Ducotels all the happiness they deserve.
From their very first entrance — stepping down a ladder, engrossed in the breakdown of poor Marie Louise — these three convict angels are irresistible. They are fleet, charming, breathtakingly competent, and nearly omniscient when it comes to the trials of the household. In the hands of Cartier, Coleman, and Harrell, the trio is pure pleasure to watch in action. They complement each other well physically — Cartier’s birdlike frame to Coleman’s long lankiness and Harrell’s loose sensuality — and have an addictive comedic rapport. They’re also deliciously protean. Jules and Alfred, arrested for murder, affect a fair amount of diabolical wrath in their gazes at Henri, but flit just as easily into schoolboyish lust (Jules, for Marie Louise) or sweet nostalgia (Alfred, for a dream of domesticity). And Cartier’s Joseph, in for business fraud, can talk circles in which flattery swiftly turns, like a blade, to menace.
They are persuasive, and their tools of persuasion are manifold. No ordinary cons, the three are collectively versed in wine and the culinary arts, forgery, intimidation, the reappropriation of everything from chickens to Christmas trees, and, of course, the discreet removal of nuisances (this last with the help of their pal Adolph, a deadly snake they keep in a basket). It’s marvelous fun to watch the effects of their work on everybody else. Marie Louise, who’s not completely impartial to Jules’s admiration, has her confidence restored; and Omar’s excellently befuddled Felix positively spins trying to keep up with Joseph’s benevolent machinations. In the confidence of Alfred and his domestic yearnings, Butler’s sensitive Emilie moves beyond her stock worried-matron qualities to reveal a fuller character.