note: entire contents copyright 1997 by E. Kyle Minor
by E. Kyle Minor
Turning 18th-century French dramatist Marivaux's "Triumph of Love" into a musical works so well, you wonder why some one didn't pull it off years ago. "Triumph," running through February 8 at Yale Repertory Theatre, proves this chamber-farce was a musical waiting to happen.
Composer Jeffrey Stock, lyricist Susan Birkenhead and bookwriter James Magruder retain light, romantic flavor of its original source. In fact, they take it further, using music to briskly tell the tale of a princess who simply must get her man.
Marivaux (1688-1763) recently enjoyed renewed popularity in regional theatre. Hartford Stage successfully brought "False Admissions" out of moth balls two seasons ago. New Jersey's McCarter Theatre followed suit, as did several other New England venues. While this relative influx didn't quite bump Shakespeare or Moliere from the "A-list" of most revived ancients, it introduced today's audience to a clever man previously rotting in the text books.
Marivaux, as proven once again in Yale Rep's musical, remain fresh because he sticks to romantic comedy, or more specifically, love-driven farce. Since Marivaux was a French playwright writing the play for an Italian troupe, his flavor tastes very Comedia-Frencaise cum Commedia dell'arte. The operative word here is comedy, no matter how you spell it.
The plot concerns the Grecian princess Leonide (Susan Egan) who dives headlong in love over Agis, a young scholar sheltered from the world by the philosopher Hermocrates (Robert LuPone) and his scary sister Hesione (Mary Beth Peil). With the assistance of her maid Corine (Denny Dillon) and Hermocrates' valet Harlequin (Kenny Raskin) and gardener Dimas (Daniel Marcus), Leonide will prevail. Her obstacles? Hermocrates' manse is ruled solely by intellect, ruling out affairs of the heart. Another problem is that Leonide's parents killed Agis' parents in the heat of battle, thus freezing any prospects of romantic sparks herein.
Borrowing from about 1,256 playwrights before him and more after his death, Marivaux drags Leonide in men's apparel, enabling her to woo her Big Moment in disguise. Unlike most other dramatists, however, Marivaux knows what avenues of comedy to click on to and when the gag has run its course. Magruder adds humorous anachronism for his servants, but mostly leaves the story to Marivaux. Stock's music may be short on ballads and the repeating choruses we've grown accustomed too from so many Webber monstrosities, but the piece is best served this way. Dreary exposition is economically and fetchingly doled out in song ("Men of Reason," "The Ballad of Cecile" and "Three Great Minds"). Stock's style ranges from musical scenes to soliloquy. Many of the melodies are of the highest order and would most assuredly be "hummable" if they were reprised at all. The cast is 99.44 % lean. Michael Mayer's direction and Heidi Landesman's set design are models in tasteful economy.
Whether or not "Triumph" goes to Broadway, Off-Broadway or the video rack in
your supermarket should be of no concern to theatre-goers. The point is that
"Triumph" is a sweet, little musical sure to amuse you.
"Triumph of Love"
runs through February 8
at Yale Repertory Theatre, 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven
Tickets range $25-$30
Call (203) 432-1234