Staging an 18th century farce outdoors presents two obvious problems.

First, most farces require at least a half dozen doors, and doors are rarely found among the flora and fauna. Second, period farces tend to have incredibly convoluted plots, and holding an audience's attention in the heat of a Baltimore summer could be a lot to expect.

Happily, the Bowman Ensemble, which performs on the campus of McDonogh School, has overcome both of these obstacles with its delightful production of Carlo Goldoni's "The Fan."

The door problem has been solved by set designer Kaem Coughlin's detailed depiction of an Italian village square featuring a total of eight doorways -- not to mention several windows, conveniently located for the benefit of the play's many eavesdropping characters.

And, while the plot still takes the requisite twists and turns, the new translation by Rick Davis, associate artistic director of Center Stage, is as easy to follow as a road map of the Italian countryside. In addition, Mr. Davis has given the dialogue a modern-sounding colloquial flow, without sacrificing period flavor.

All of this is in service of a silly, but involved story that is set in motion when a young woman named Candida -- played with high style by Carol Dunne -- breaks her fan while conversing with the man she loves, Signor Evaristo (Patrick Johnson Jr.). He buys a replacement fan, which falls repeatedly into the wrong hands. In the process, it manages to upset not only the romance of Evaristo and Candida, but also that of the local shoemaker and a peasant girl, played with abundant spirit and physicality by Timothy Thilleman and Karen A. Bishop, respectively.

Like most Goldoni farces, "The Fan" comments on the foolishness of human nature, particularly when love is involved. Along the way, there are repeated jabs at the pompous nobility, represented here by a foppish, penniless count, whose airs grow increasingly exaggerated in Bradford F. Cover's portrayal.

But aside from such occasional excesses, this production, under the sprightly direction of C. Russell Muth, suggests that the Bowman Ensemble, a repertory troupe now in its second season, is a welcome addition to Baltimore's summer theatrical landscape. In other words -- pardon the pun -- it's easy to be a "Fan" fan.

"The Fan" continues in repertory at McDonogh School through Aug. 8; call 363-9254.

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