Starring Mike Shara, Nicole Underhay. Written by Arthur Schnitzler. Adapted and directed by Morris Panych. Tarragon Theatre, to Feb. 10.
“Women are a riddle, men are simply a joke,” says Max, the psychologist sidekick in The Amorous Adventures of Anatol. Actually, in this splendidly silly version of Arthur Schnitzler’s 1893 play, men, women, and love itself are one big laugh. Morris Panych’s droll adaptation follows Anatol (Mike Shara), a conceited young Casanova in fin-de-siècle Vienna, through seven episodes involving seven of his lovers (all played with great comic gusto by Nicole Underhay). Shara’s playboy is the picture of po-faced foolishness, and Robert Persichini, as the Freud-like Max, is a wonderfully dry foil. But it’s the versatile Underhay, one of the Shaw Festival’s bright lights, who has the most fun with her gallery of fickle femmes. Ken MacDonald contributes an ingenious sitting-room set with no less than 128 tiny cupboards, while Charlotte Dean and Avril Stevenson dress Underhay in a lovingly detailed period wardrobe. This earlier work is a trifle next to Schnitzler’s more famous La Ronde, but its wry mockery of the self-styled ladykiller is a delight.