Silvia (Beth Rothschild) is about to be introduced to Dorante (Jacob Yeh) for a possible arranged marriage. The refined Silvia is mistrustful of Dorante because both because of his rumored good looks and the ability of men to present a different public face. To gain a true picture of her potential mate, she persuades her father Orogon (Jon Jon Johnson) to allow her to switch places with her chambermaid Lisette (Nevie Brooks). Orogon and Silvia’s playful brother Mario (David Winkler) agree, concealing from Silvia that Dorante has planned a similar switch with his own valet Harlequin (Lucas Beck).
Needless to say, the concealed identities lead to much merriment. The self-imagined charmer Harlequin instantly falls for the lovesick Lisette, much to the dismay of their respective masters. Meanwhile, a slower simmering attraction builds between Silvia and Dorante. Orogon and Mario work to stoke the romantic intrigues for their own amusement.
The story gives much of the broad comedy to the lower class lovers. Fortunately, the cast has two adept comic actors in Brooks and Beck. Brooks nearly steals the show as the giggly Lisette with her cartoonish voice and her ability to swoon with emotion. This sharp young comedienne finds a good match with Beck’s strutting peacock playboy (and the outfit given him by Cheryl Patton Wu gets one of the big laughs of the show). He is a natural rascal who thoroughly enjoys the chance to play at nobility and woo a lady.
The more realistic romance between Silvia and Dorante is not quite as successful. After starting a tad strident as the refined noblewoman, Rothschild warms to her character. She has a strong stage presence and a natural appeal that draws audience sympathy. She also effectively handles the switches in emotion required by Malveaux’s plot twists. Unfortunately, the lack of chemistry between Rothschild and a less capable Yeh is the only real weakness to the production.
Johnson and Winkler seem to thoroughly enjoy their smaller roles. They also convey a sense of familial affection is also part of the reason for having the haughty Silvia learn a lesson from the situation.
This production updates the work from the eighteen century to the 1930s – a move that is consistent with the contemporary vernacular of the Wadsworth adaptation. While the farcical elements remain funny, the more modern setting makes the central romance more grounded and realistic.
Director and Set Designer Mark Krikstan’s opulent set evokes Noel Coward and the black and white tile floor is appropriate for the chess match of love played out on it. The set features the multiple entrances that any good farce requires as well as a piano that is put to great use. Winkler plays Cole Porter and Gershwin songs both to establish mood and as part of the story. One particular high point involves teasing Silvia with a rendition of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”
This production of The Game of Love and Chance works on a variety of levels, ranging from robust hilarity and comic wordplay to thoughtful emotion. The quality of the production makes it worth the challenge of finding 1st Stage’s out of the way location in Tysons Corner.
The Game of Love & Chance
Written by Pierre de Marivaux
Translated and adapted by Stephen Wadsworth
Directed by Mark Krikstan
Presented by 1st Stage
Reviewed by Steven McKnight
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