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|A CurtainUp Review
The Triumph of Love
By Jenny Sandman
Mistaken identity has long been a staple of romantic comedy, especially when combined with cross-dressing--from As You Like It to Some Like It Hot. The Triumph of Love is a classic example of cross-dressing comedy.
Though largely ignored until lately, Marivaux is part of the great French canon that includes Moliere, Racine and Beaumarchais. Marivaux's plays were airier and subtler than his contemporaries', and because of his particular brand of theatrical fluffiness (termed "Marivaudage" by Voltaire in a fit of pique), he passed out of fashion and remained unperformed until the late 20th century. The Triumph of Love is his best-known play, and has been produced all over the country by prominent regional theatres.
It is an intricate entanglement of plots and subplots; the characters are in disguise, with as many false personas and farcical love scenes and doubletakes as the genre requires. Princess Leonide is in love with Prince Agis, who is the rightful heir to her own throne, usurped by her father many years ago. Agis has no idea of his heritage or identity-he was raised in solitude by the renown philosopher Hermocrates and his sister Leontina. The princess assumes a disguise as a man and sneaks into the philosopher's estate, determined to win Agis' love and marry him, thus restoring him to his throne. To do so, she must arrange secret meetings with Agis, while wooing Hermocrates as a different woman disguised as a man and Leontina as a man in love with her. The gardeners are paid off to keep the princess's secret, as they run interference between the various lovers. Eventually, all three find out they have been duped, and the princess reveals her true identity-after all the confusion, a suitably happy ending appears.
Jean Cocteau Rep commissioned Rod McLucas to do a new translation of Triumph, and it has just opened. It remains true to the delicacy of Marivaux's humor and human observations, but unfortunately, is clunky and nearly ruins the dainty effect. For all the shenanigans and subplots, it moves slowly. The acting is spirited, especially Amanda Jones as the princess, but is still a bit stiff. The actors seem at times to be flummoxed by the abstruse language(possibly a problem with the translation), and their comic timing is off.
The set is an absurd mess that resembles a cross between a Hunter Thompson drawing and a Led Zeppelin album cover, in pastel. A swooping silvery façade, which looks as though it has been carved from Styrofoam, sports faintly abstract tree trunks and numerous pointed doorways, studded with Swiss-cheese-like holes. Two ladders lean against the structure, disappearing into the crawl space above the stage, and a malignant orange sun hangs over it all. It's clearly meant to be fantastical and romantic, but it overshadows the actors-both literally and figuratively. The costumes are a little better; they are partly classical, partly Oriental, and partly commedia dell'arte, but none resemble any of the others, and the color schemes clash with each other and with the set.
It's a shame this production didn't quite gel; it's a funny play, but the humor seems to have been buried beneath the slow pace and weird set. But Marivaux fans should not fear; chances are good someone else will perform it again soon.
LINKS TO OTHER MARIVOUX REVIEWS Our review of Inconstant Lovers Triumph of Love, the Musical
Mendes at the Donmar
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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