Playwright: by Pierre de Marivaux (translated by Stephen Wadsworth)
Venue: Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater, 3955 Regent Circle, Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes (includes two15 minute intermissions).
Date of Performance: Sunday, October 23, 2016.
It’s October, and that means your entertainment choices include a wide variety of Halloween related ghoul fests. Live theater choices this year include Night of the Living Dead, Cripple Creepshow, and The Bold, The Young, and the Murdered. It is truly a season of blood and guts for all.
If, however, you’re not a fan of zombies, vampires, and stage blood, don’t despair. Theatreworks has just the antidote to the seasonal fright shows. The Game of Love and Chance (Game of Love) won’t scare you in the slightest. Any tears in your eyes will be due to the nonstop antics of the stellar cast.
Theatreworks has a commendable record of reviving 18th century comedies, to the point of specializing somewhat in the genre. Their recent productions of The Liar and The Servant of Two Masters built their reputation.
The Game of Love cements it.
|Pierre de Marivaux. Credit: Wikipedia.|
Marivaux’s script may be formulaic and dated (“dated” as in first performed in 1730), but Director Murray Ross has assembled a combustible mixture of comedic talent that could get laughs reading a phone book. The Game of Love is a belly laugher timed at 2.5 hours, including two (2) intermissions. It takes that long partly because of all the pauses required to let the laughter die down. But don’t let the running time get in the way of a good time. Malvaux’s masquerade may be the fastest two and half hours on any local stage in recent memory.
The plot is silly, involving a hilarious charade as nobles and servants swap roles. That’s really all you need to know to understand the story. It’s a classic in the Commedia dell’arte style, featuring exaggerated stock characters, exquisite period costumes, and inspired direction by Murray Ross. Ross adds what is, for me at least, a brand new category to the creative staff: “Movement Consultant.” If you’re not sure what that means (and who could blame you?), watch the actors. They use exaggerated movements (both arms and legs) to enhance their lines. You can’t miss it. The effect is to focus the audience on what they see as well as what they hear. The “Movement Consultant” (Catherine Turocy) has added a visual layer to the cast, generating a richer level of comedy.
Ross also gives his cast a fairly free reign, adding an appropriate level of ad libbing. The invisible barrier between the audience and the stage gets punctured at times. For theater purists, that’s a problem. As far as I’m concerned, in a comedy it can (and here, it does) work.
Russell Parkman’s set is simple; a parquet floor with period furniture and ornately painted doors at each end. Its’ simplicity is its’ best feature; the space evokes the mood and the sense of an 18th century mansion. Stephanie Bradley’s costumes are exquisitely detailed, and it’s not just about the cut and the color of the clothes. She has obviously used the finest fabrics available to her.
Comedies make us laugh, but it’s much easier for the cast to generate laughter if they are actually having fun. I have no doubt whatsoever that this cast is having a ball with Game of Love. Watch them when they aren’t speaking. At times, they can’t help smiling or laughing at each other.
|Sammie Joe Kinnett (Harlequin).|
The clown prince of Game of Love is Sammie Joe Kinnett (Harlequin). Mr. Kinnett is perhaps the funniest guy in Southern Colorado (maybe in all of Colorado). His resume is impressive; he brought down the house with a food fight a while back. He only gets the chance to snack here, but the effect is the same: Kinnett comes loaded for laughs.
Kinnett’s love interest Lisette is played by clown princess Caitlin Wise, and she’s a perfect match for him. She’s as big a cutup as Kinnett, and her physical comedy and timing are spot on. She can go toe to toe with Kinnett. The two together are reminiscent of the best comedy couples we know (Lucy and Desi, Carol Burnett and Tim Conway, for example). Ms. Wise is no stranger to comedy; she did a fantastic Lucille Ball impression earlier this year in Kind of Red. For Game of Love, she’s on fire. She struts. She stalks. She teases, she pleases, and she slays her prey. With a killer smile and a wink in her eye, Wise enchants Harlequin/Dorante. He can’t resist her, and neither can we.
|Caitlin Wise (Lisette).|
The royal couple, Sylvia (Carley Cornelius) and Dorante (John DiAntonio) do their best impressions of servants and still fall in love with each other. Both are compelling, whether we see them as royalty or serfs. Cornelius is as funny as she is devious, taking the masquerade to a needless extreme. DiAntonio is dashing; his nobility is obvious though he’s dressed to work in the stables.
Not to be outdone, Christian O’Shaunessy plays Sylvia’s brother with a sibling sense of mischief. He sees the entire charade as his own personal playground. O’Shaunessy gets the balance right; equal parts fun and shenanigans. David Hastings is properly paternal as Orgon, granting his daughter Sylvia her wish to meet her arranged match in disguise. Hastings lends some dignity to an otherwise chaotic experience.
My quibbles with Game of Love (a sugary sweet script with the nutrition of cotton candy and a challenging running time) are minor indeed. Game of Love is a rocking good time when we need it most: there’s not a drop of blood shed here, and it’s only a week until Halloween. Theatreworks demonstrates once again that it has absolutely no fear of formats. Game of Love is a 270 year old script that comes alive, and Theatreworks puts it out right after a bold, non-linear contemporary love story (also featuring Ms. Cornelius). These two shows could not be more different, and both followed a Shakespeare classic to kick off the season. If you’re looking for a broad range of excellent theater, Theatreworks is the place to start your search.
|Carlie Cornelius (Sylvia)
& John DiAntonio (Dorante).
Finally, a word to those who sneak out seconds after the last scene so you can beat the traffic. You lose. The cast takes their bows, breaks into a waltz, and finally busts some serious dance moves that didn’t exist in 1730. I was hoping they might invite the audience to join them on stage. You might want to wear your boogie shoes just in case it happens.
This show closes on November 6, 2016. This show is appropriate for all ages.
|David Hastings (Orgon) & Christian O’Shaunessey (Mario).|
Director: Murray Ross
Movement Consultant: Catherine Turocy
Scenic Design: Russell Parkman
Master Electrician: Eric
Lighting Design: Amith Chandrashaker
Sound Design: Jerry R. Ditter
Costume Design: Stephanie Bradley
Stitchers: Mindy Coulson & Karen Holloway
Wig Master: Jonathan Eberhardt
Props Manager: Rebecca Dull
Stage Manager: Elise Jenkins
Assistant Stage Manager: Kristen Wickersheim
Production/Shop Crew: Will Blocker, John Cooke, Alexandria Ellison, Jennifer Gebhart, Ruth Geiger Jonathan Smith, Benton Gray, Natalie Kiel, Charles Redding, Salvador Placensia, Gia Zhuang, Jacob Del Valle, Jesse Whiteside.
Silvia: Carley Cornelius
Dorante: John DiAntonio
Orgon: David Hastings
Mario: Christian O’Shaughnessy
Harlequin: Sammie Joe Kinnett
Lisette: Caitlin Wise
Valet: Galen Westmoreland
Chambermaid: Taylor Dunbar