The Game of Love and Chance at the Centaur Theatre until April 1st is a deliciously theatrical, interpretation of Pierre Carlet de Chamberlain de Marivaux’s 18th century piece Le jeu de l’amour et du hasard. Adapted and translated from the French into English by Nicolas Billon and directed with overheated passion by Matthew Jocelyn, the artistic director of Toronto’s Canadian Stage Theatre, the co-production is a contemporary reworking of the classic.
Marivaux is either turning over in his grave or applauding this audacious 90 minute retelling of his romantic comedy. The story involves the duplicitous couplings and mistaken identities of a pair of high- bred aristocrats pretending to be low-bred servants. Of course the social order is compromised, and what we have here is a kind of gallic l’abbe Downton with guffaws.
Orgon (William Webster) has told his headstrong daughter, Sylvia (Trish Lindstrom) that he will not consent to her arranged marriage to Dorante (Harry Judge) if she doesn’t like the guy. So Sylvia pretends to be her maid Lisette, (Gemma James Smith) in order to check out her suitor from a distance. And Lisette pretends to be Sylvia. Adding to the confusion, is the fact that Dorante, too, switches roles with his valet, Arlequino (Gil Garratt). The servants, too, discover a mutual attraction for each other, but of course no one can disclose their true identities until the their respective relationships are sorted out. Will love prevail?
The action takes place in a highly stylized mirrored drawing room of a French Chateau designed by Anick La Bissonniere.
Actors zip in and out of doors, making their entrances and exits in spectacular fashion, - none more spectacular than Gil Garratt’s campy Arlequino. Garrett upstages everyone with his rubber-kneed antics. Gemma James Smith, with her pop-eyes, and admirable energy is no slouch at scene stealing either. With a nod to the exaggerated style of Commedia dell’Arte, much of the hilarity in the chatty play is the pure slapstick.
Although the goings on around him are frenetic, William Webster as Orgon, - who is in on the game of deception - gets honest laughs with his solid delivery. Zack Fraser rounds out the cast as Sylvia’s brother, Mario. Feather boas and garish costumes clash with the lipstick red walls , mirrored set and sparkling chandelier. Bursts of sound punctuate scene changes, including Vivaldi’s highly appropriate Gloria.
This Toronto-Montreal co-production is as bracing as a splash of Coca-Cola in a glass of Chateau Lafitte Rothschild. Purists may complain. It may not be to everyone’s taste. But, hey, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.