×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Triumph of Love

Playing fast and loose with Marivaux, South Coast Repertory's giddy, gaudy "The Triumph of Love" is a victory of comic invention for adapter Richard Greenberg and director Mark Rucker, though the 18th-century French playwright on whose play they've spun a dizzy new variation might have a few qualms.

With:
Cast: Rene Augesen (Phocion, aka Leonide, Aspasie), Colette Kilroy (Hermidas, aka Corine), Tom Beckett (Harlequin), Patrick Kerr (Dimas), Joshua Farrell (Agis), Jeanne Paulsen (Leontine), Patrick O'Connell (Hermocrate).

Playing fast and loose with Marivaux, South Coast Repertory’s giddy, gaudy “The Triumph of Love” is a victory of comic invention for adapter Richard Greenberg and director Mark Rucker, though the 18th-century French playwright on whose play they’ve spun a dizzy new variation might have a few qualms.

The production signals its irreverence in the opening moments, as Princess Leonide (Rene Augesen) blazes through a barrage of exposition without so much as pausing for a breath, leaving the audience struggling to follow her tale of ancient feuds among her forebears and those of the young object of her admiration, Agis (Joshua Farrell), whose kingdom her family once usurped. But the confusion is intentional — her companion Hermidas advises the befuddled to consult the dramaturg’s notes in the program at intermission — and the first tipoff that Rucker’s revisionist staging won’t play by any of the classic theater’s rules.

Leonide has come to woo Agis, who has been raised under the stern, philosophy-besotted eyes of Hermocrate (Patrick O’Connell) and Leontine (Jeanne Paulsen). Because she’s from a family at war with Agis, Leonide disguises herself as a young man (don’t ask why). Only by charming both of Agis’ intellectual elders can Leonide gain access to Agis, and the play’s plot follows the revolutions her wooing of all three characters brings about in their hearts, formerly closed to the lures of love.

The show’s comic momentum takes off with the entrance of Harlequin (in leopard-print Napoleonic chapeau, with nary a diamond print in sight) and his bumbling associate, the gardener Dimas (Patrick Kerr), who are quickly enlisted to aid Leonide’s cause. Though we hardly need the knock on the head of Harlequin’s entry carrying a Hefty bag — loudly labeled as such — to clue us in to the play’s heedlessness of period detail, Dimas’ arrival provides a genuine comic coup de theatre — too priceless to spoil by description — provided by Karen Teneyck’s brightly colored, ingenious set.

The attention to each character’s entry — the hapless Agis is greeted with a jet of water from a garden hose — is indicative of Rucker’s careful husbanding of all the production’s details — right down to a subtly unraveling wig — in pursuit of a daffy aesthetic that pokes fun at the play’s conventions even as it serves them up with hearty panache.

Playing Dimas with the air of a stooge who knows more than he lets on, with a deadpan, nasal whine that wrings an astonishing number of laughs from Greenberg’s astonishing number of clever malapropisms and puns, the marvelous Kerr puts Harlequin in the shade, although Beckett has his own wry charm. Together they make a major corporation out of their business, which is in truth only a sideline to the play’s plot.

Indeed if Rucker’s production has a fault, it is that the emphasis on broad comedy leaves little time for the play’s more nuanced moments to steal into our hearts. “To have to put up with this low comedy is the last straw,” sniffs O’Connell’s Hermocrate, and one can sympathize. With the play making fun of itself at every turn, it would take some doing to keep audiences in tune to the seriousness with which Marivaux’s characters treat the desires of their hearts.

Augesen is an able actress, and Paulsen and O’Connell give astute turns, but it’s only Farrell’s Agis who makes us feel that his love is as genuine and reason-shattering as all the characters claim. Dazed and wilting when he believes Leonide has pledged her lover to another, his flushed face a mask of pain, he’s as funny as he is moving.

In Rucker’s artful final tableau, the jilted Leontine and Hermocrate — having changed their resolutely brown ensembles to join their fellows in Katherine Beatrice Roth’s witty, riotously colored duds — turn toward each other with matching looks of wonder. They’ve learned that “love can lay waste to reason,” in Greenberg’s elegant phrase, and if that’s an old truth, it’s rarely been put across with the comic exuberance it gets here.

The Triumph of Love

South Coast Repertory; 509 seats; $41 top

Production: South Coast Repertory presents a play in two acts by Marivaux, adapted by Richard Greenberg from a literal translation by John Glore. Directed by Mark Rucker.

Creative: Set, Karen Teneyck; costumes, Katherine Beatrice Roth; lighting, Tom Ruzika; original music and sound, Michael Roth; production manager, Michael Mora; stage manager, Scott Harrison. Artistic director, Martin Benson. Opened, reviewed Feb. 22; runs through March 23. Running time: 2 hours, 10 min.

Cast: Cast: Rene Augesen (Phocion, aka Leonide, Aspasie), Colette Kilroy (Hermidas, aka Corine), Tom Beckett (Harlequin), Patrick Kerr (Dimas), Joshua Farrell (Agis), Jeanne Paulsen (Leontine), Patrick O'Connell (Hermocrate).

More Legit

  • Bryan Cranston First Time in Variety

    Bryan Cranston on His Early Roles, Dealing With Rejection and His 'Erasable Mind'

    Following his 2014 Tony Award for best actor as President Lyndon B. Johnson in Robert Schenkkan’s play “All the Way,” Bryan Cranston is looking to add to his trophy collection this year with his performance as Howard Beale in “Network.” The deranged anchorman — who’s famously “mad as hell and not going to take this [...]

  • Ink Play West End London

    Wary Theater Rivalry Between London and New York Gives Way to a Boom in Crossovers

    Give or take a little tectonic shift, the distance between London and New York still stands at 3,465 miles. Arguably, though, the two theater capitals have never been closer. It’s not just the nine productions playing in duplicate in both locations — believed to be the most ever — with three more expected in the [...]

  • Alex Brightman Beetlejuice Broadway

    How Alex Brightman Brought a Pansexual Beetlejuice to Life on Broadway

    Alex Brightman gives the deadliest performance on Broadway — in a good way — in “Beetlejuice.” The big-budget musical adaptation of the 1988 film directed by Tim Burton has scored eight Tony nominations, including best actor. To play the frisky role, Brightman (“School of Rock”) dons Beetlejuice’s striped suit and an assortment of colorful wigs [...]

  • Santino Fontana Tootsie Broadway Illustration

    'Tootsie' Star Santino Fontana on the Challenges of His Tony-Nominated Dual Role

    Santino Fontana is doing double duty on Broadway this year. The “Tootsie” star scored his second Tony Award nomination this month for his hilarious portrayal of struggling actor Michael Dorsey and Dorothy Michaels, the female persona that Dorsey assumes to win a role in a play. The musical, based on the 1982 comedy starring Dustin [...]

  • Dear Evan Hansen

    Broadway Cast Albums Find Fresh Footing With Hip New Sounds, Viral Outreach

    Mixtapes. YouTube videos. Dedicated playlists. Ancillary products. Viral marketing. Epic chart stays. These are things you expect to hear from a record label discussing Cardi B or Beyoncé. Instead, this is the new world of a very old staple, the Broadway original cast recording. Robust stats tell the tale: Atlantic’s “Hamilton” album beat the record [...]

  • Ali Stroker Oklahoma

    Ali Stroker on 'Oklahoma!': 'This Show Doesn’t Follow the Rules and That Is So Who I Am'

    Ali Stroker is no stranger to rewriting history. With her 2015 Broadway debut in “Spring Awakening,” she became the first actor in a wheelchair to perform on the Great White Way. Three years later, she’s back onstage in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” as Ado Annie, the flirtatious local who splits her affections between a resident [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content