CORVALLIS — Some shows are so enjoyable to watch it frankly doesn’t matter which language they’re performed in.
That’s certainly the case with “Primadonny,” a Russian-language play being staged by Oregon State University’s Russian Troupe at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 11, and 4:30 p.m. Saturday, March 12, at OSU’s Lab Theatre inside Withycombe Hall.
“Primadonny”— translated to Russian from Ken Ludwig’s American original, “Leading Ladies” — is a riotous comedy that some have compared to the film “Some Like It Hot” while mixing in Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night." It tells the story of two men, Leo and Jack, who struggle to make it as Shakespearean actors in Amish country in Pennsylvania.
Then the pair reads about a wealthy, dying heiress, who is set to leave her fortune to her long-lost two nephews, whom no one has seen since birth. Leo and Jack decide to impersonate the two men, but they learn that the missing relatives are in fact nieces, and they must dress as women to collect the inheritance.
Their successful masquerade proves problematic when Leo falls in love with the vivacious Meg and Jack is smitten with Audrey, a ditzy young woman who works for the doctor attending Florence. Meg is engaged to the stuffy, local minister, Duncan, who seeks the fortune himself.
As one would expect in a show such as this, madcap antics are the driving force.
"There are some tricky, hair-raising costume changes that have to happen very quickly, lots of entrances and exits that make for a fun show," said director Vreneli Farber, a retired OSU Russian professor. "And it's a really strong cast. There's nobody who makes you cringe and say, 'Oh, dear.' We have some very talented people working on this."
As the play progresses, the entire group prepares to stage "Twelfth Night," with Leo and Jack (behaving as "Maxine" and "Stephanie"), acting as the leading ladies of Shakespeare's play. Duncan grows increasingly suspicious of the "women" and enlists the help of the local police inspector.
“Primadonny” is the 15th annual show staged by the Troupe, and though it will be performed in Russian, a detailed, English summary will be provided at the door.
“This play certainly works well for people who don’t speak Russian because it’s a very physical comedy, and the summary is very easy to follow,” Farber said. “It’s all very entertaining.”
Tickets are $10 for adults, $6 for students and seniors, and kids under 12 are admitted free. Tickets can be purchased at the door, and reservations are also available.