A program from the original run of Iolanthe

The course of true love never did run smooth—not without a patter song, anyway. That’s the moral of any G&S collab worth its salt, one that Iolanthe hits alongside the other requisite spots: Sir Arthur Sullivan pares down his operatic filigree to simple motifs of a Wagnerian amplitude, while W.S. Gilbert’s reliably mordant wordplay whets some of the duo’s bluntest political satire. The plot (secondary as ever) involves fairies, shepherds, and the House of Lords as the titular sprite helps her son Strephon win fair Phyllis’ hand. (Strephon’s fairy blood, we learn, is localized in his torso: Note the phallic insinuations of Strephon’s lament that his bottom half will wither while his top remains eternally young.) Iolanthe’s own perma-youth causes something of a stir throughout the operetta—at one point, Phyllis takes a maternal embrace as proof that her swain has been boffing someone else. To spite Strephon, she declares that she’ll marry one of two dim-witted but aristocratic baritones. Hilarity, naturally, ensues.

IOLANTHE SHOWS AT 2:30 P.M. AND 8 P.M. AND RUNS TO APRIL 5 AT ATLAS PERFORMING ARTS CENTER, 1333 H ST. NE. $20—$45. (202) 399-7993.