THE STORY: It’s Paris in the eighteenth century. Valère loves Angélique, but she won’t marry him until he gives up his other mistress: The Gambling Hall. Valère is broke, creditors are in pursuit; his father Thomas is about to disown him; and his loyal servant, Hectór, despairs of his reformation, though he will stay with him to the bitter end. Angélique’s companion, Madame Préférée, arrives to inform Hectór that the marriage between her charge and his master is off, thanks to his wicked ways. The sensible woman wants Angélique to marry Dorante, the old, fat and bald uncle of her lover, but she vows to remain her lover’s fiancée if he swears to give up the game. As a pledge, she gives him her portrait in a jewel-encrusted frame. But Valère needs money; how many times can he bed the lusty, wealthy and ever-generous Madame Securité, who keeps coming back for more indoor sports? And there’s Angélique’s older sister, Mme. Argante, another wealthy widow ready to settle her whole estate on the handsome young Valère, a fate that would break the heart of the foppish, stuttering Marquis de Fauxpas, madly in love with her. Add to this a sweet young servant to the shrewish Mme. Argante and a Croupier who starts off the play with a resounding thump on his foot, and you have the makings of a world-class French comedy, albeit with darker undertones reminiscent of…Vegas and American society at the millennium? Well, the turn of any century is always marked by optimism, and what happens to the dice-crossed lovers, the portrait, the lusty widow, the old man and the stuttering fop is to be discovered within the finely woven text, written in crisp, accessible verse, with disguises, tricks and romance adding to the high comedy of this delightful “new” classic work.
“A specialist in applying new spit and polish to Molière classics, Freyda Thomas turns to his comparatively obscure junior contemporary Jean-François Regnard in THE GAMESTER, based on the latter’s 1696 Le Joueur. Less an adaptation than a new commedia inspired by the original work’s basic plot outline, this sparkling farce about a compulsive gambler has no trouble bridging a 310-year gap in audience tastes. And Ron Lagomarsino’s American Conservatory Theater staging reps one of that entity’s more purely enjoyable productions in some time.” —Variety.
“The dice are cast. The wheel spins until the final curtain falls. The actors play the cards they’re dealt. If all theater is to some extent a gamble, the American Conservatory Theater has drawn a winner with Freyda Thomas’ clever reshuffling of an old deck in THE GAMESTER, which opened to great waves of laughter Wednesday at the Geary Theater…It isn’t all luck, of course. Thomas has crafted her comedy skillfully upon the fairly solid frame of a little-known seventeenth-century French farce.” —San Francisco Chronicle.