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Marriage a la Mode: A Story Where Love and Marriage Intertwine

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“Marriage a la Mode” is a play that deals with love and marriage intertwined with the story of a usurped throne. One part of this split-plot production is a heroic story about getting the rightful monarch back in power.

Underlying this is the low comic plot, which follows two noblemen and two noblewomen. One couple is married and the other couple is about to get married when it is discovered that the fiancée and wife of the noblemen are the others’ mistresses.

When “Marriage a la Mode” debuted, it was a huge hit, but it disappeared not long after. After that, the play was often only produced as half of the original because directors were not sure how to produce the heroic plot alongside the comedic plot, but students will be able to see the entirety of this satirical, comedic melodrama in full.

Although the original play, written by John Dryden, was to take place in 17 century Sicily, director Neil Scharnick made the decision to set it in the 1930s. This was largely determined on what to do with the production’s music.

“Dryden wrote music in this play, and the text for the songs are there in the scripts, so I had to figure out, well what does this sound like?” Scharnick said.

“What it sounds like is going to depend on where and when you set it. And I started listening to try to figure that out, and I really fell in love with late 20’s and early 30’s jazz that seems to be doing and saying a lot of the same things that this play was.”

A few additional songs from this period, such as “I Wanna Be Bad” by Helen Kane have been woven into the show.

The 1930’s were also an important and exciting time for fashion. What could be done was being pushed further and fashion became a lot edgier.

Costume designer Kim Instenes made pieces inspired by designers from the 1930’s such as Elsa Schiaparelli and modern designers like Alexander McQueen.

“The reason for choosing these designers that are whimsical and pushing the envelope and fashion-forward is because these characters are very whimsical and kind of out there,” Instenes said. “The play required something that wasn’t just the period look.”

The costumes, as a result, are reminiscent of the period but more modern, creating a “heightened, stylized” 1930’s look.

Because this is a play about young people, students will be able to relate to it if they are negotiating their ideals of love and romance. Besides one newlywed couple, the rest of the characters are “single and figuring it out.” This play makes fun of all the different ways we tend to do so.

“It’s a very dirty, witty show,” Conor O’Brien, ’17, who plays Palamede in the show, said. “It’s a new twist on a restoration classic that rivals modern comedies.”

Scharnick has also agreed that people may be surprised by how dirty the play is.

“It’s a reminder that people have not changed much since the 17 century,” Scharnick said.

“Marriage a la Mode” will be running November 4, 5, 10, 11 and 12 at 7:30 p.m. and on November 6 at 3 pm in the Wartburg Auditorium. Students receive two complimentary tickets to the production.

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