Take a cross dressing princess who woos everyone in her path in order to be with her true love, add a philosopher whose cerebral journey allows no room for romance, mix in his spinster sister who’s been shut away in a lonely compound full of men but with no opportunity, throw in a young man whose throne has been stolen from his family and who’s been raised to think women are the enemy, drizzle it all with the broad antics of comedic sidekicks and what do you get? Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de Marivaux’s farce Triumph of Love . . . written in 1737. But don’t let the 300 year old time stamp deter you - Redd Tale Theatre company has a new adaptation in store for audiences, with a new translation by Virginie Maries and a bit of a sci fi twist as well, courtesy of director (and adapter) Will Le Vasseur.
This updated Triumph of Love begins with a dramatic scene of a witch casting a spell at the request of Princess Leonide (Lynn Kenny) who hopes that by going “back to the beginning” she can make things right. And so, right back to the beginning she goes, to a garden of statues which come to life and fall back into repose depending on the situation. Leonide immediately goes to her handmaiden, Corine (played with saucy wryness by the delightful Cameran Hebb) and together the two of them do a bit of exposition to bring the audience up to speed. Though clunky and obvious as far as scenes go, it gets the job done. In a nutshell – Leonide is hoping to win the heart of her true love, Agis (Brad Lewandowski) who is being raised by a sex-eschewing philosopher, Hermocrate (Tom Cleary) and his prim, lonely sister, Leontine (Virginia Bartholomew). Agis, by the way, never even really met Leonide. But that doesn’t stop this princess from concocting a scheme zany enough to be at the core of a Three’s Company episode.
The story bumps a bit at first, and so does the play, but soon enough as the Princess (or “Phocione” as she now calls herself – if you’re wondering, it’s a male name – and along with a coat seems to be all the disguise she needs!) begins to weave her web of lies, deceit and double-crossing the tale really gathers speed and the fun starts.
The delight of this play is watching how quickly and cleverly Leonide changes her story depending on who she’s speaking with; how she can turn her plan on a dime the minute she’s in danger of being discovered. Lynn Kenny has an amazingly agile way of moving and seamlessly transforms from character to character (sometimes character within character), even changing mid-ruse upon being discovered. This is one princess who doesn’t know the meaning of the word speed-bump.
Doing a great job of keeping the mood light, playful and buoyant are James Stewart as the gardener, Dimas, and Robert Dyckman as manservant, Arlequin. The pair are sweet and funny, and their antics are reminiscent of classic duos such as Crosby and Hope or Lemmon and Curtis; right down to the notion of one ending up with the gal while the other makes due with the dough.
I suspect that the real triumph of love to which the title alludes isn’t whether or not the princess gets her man in the end, but rather the way in which the act of loving can loosen the coils of the tightly wound philosopher and those he oversees. Without love their existence has been a thoughful one, and the cerebral pursuits have been paramount. Watching as Hermocrate, Leontine and Agis all become aware of (and attune to) love is the note of this story that hits the mark. Particulalry enjoyable are the performances of Tom Cleary as the rigid Hermocrate and Virginia Bartholomew as the tentative Leontine. As they both find themselves charmed by Princess Leonide (in disguise) you can feel the creaks as the dormant heart begins to pump lustily. When brother and sister slyly wish each other the good fortune of “proposals” you can almost see them shaking off the dust of loneliness that has covered them for so long.
Director Will Le Vasseur seems to be an actors’ director; under his guidance the talented cast has been allowed to examine and explore these characters and they come up shining. If it’s a fun-filled escape you’re looking for, you won’t find a better way to spend 2 hours than with this updated classic.
Triumph of Love is playing in rep with Macbeth - and if you’d like to see exactly how talented The Redd Tale Theatre Company ensemble is I suggest you take in Will Le Vasseur’s edited version of Macbeth which will astound you . . . not only on its own merits but by showing you how this cast juggles two strong plays simultaneously.
The Redd Tale Theatre Company is an ensemble that truly elevates the craft of acting, and my respect for them is only surpassed by their talent.
~~~Triumph Of Love Written by Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de Marivaux new translation by Virginie Maries adapted and directed by Will Le Vasseur
- Thursday, August 05, 2010 through Sunday, August 29, 2010 - Nicu’s Spoon Theatre 38 West 38th Street 5th Floor New York, NY 10163 (5ve Ave and Avenue of Americas)
- General Admission $15.00 Students w/ ID $13.00 Sunday Evening $12.00 Click Here to buy tickets