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Deep Dish Theater Company Preview: The Game of Love and Chance Is a Fine French Comedy

November 7, 2002 - Chapel Hill, NC:


Young love in its aspects, from the giddy heights of infatuation to the somber depths of gloom and even madness following a lovers' quarrel, is the timeless subject of Deep Dish Theater Company's current production of The Game of Love and Chance. Ah, all the wonderful and horrible things that a young man in love can do to the young woman that he loves-and vice versa.

This classic 18th century French romantic comedy, originally entitled "Le Jeu de l'amour et du hasard" when it premiered in 1730, is another comic masterpiece by perennially popular French playwright, journalist, and novelist Pierre Marivaux (1688-1763). (The Encyclopædia Britannica claims that the plays of Marivaux number among the most frequently performed comedies in the French theater, second only to the comedies of Molière.)

Guest director Tony Lea will stage Stephen Wadsworth's saucy translation and adaptation of this Marivaux masterpiece. "The rules have changed," Lea writes elsewhere, "but the 'game of love' is still being played. Much of the humor of the piece results from how adept and successful the players are at playing the game."

Translator/adapter Stephen Wadsworth, whom William A. Henry III of Time Magazine has labeled as America's "premier Marivaux exponent," told Henry: "Marivaux's plays all combine joy and ebullience with a savagely acute perception of how people operate. He wants to leave you on the horns of a dilemma. You cannot simply like his characters for what they are or simply dislike them for what they do."

In an interview with Robert's Reviews, Tony Lea claims, "The Game of Love and Chance is about people desperately struggling for love and happiness, trying to be who they are while pretending to be what they are not. Most interesting to me … is that, amongst the game-playing and shifting of social masks, there is a romantic and tender heart at the center."

Lea adds, "The plays starts as Silvia (Katja Hill) is told by her chambermaid Lisette (Betsy Henderson) that her father Orgon (Rick Lonon) has betrothed her to Dorante (Michael Brocki). Dorante is coming to visit and has told Orgon that he intends to trade places with his valet Harlequin (David Byron Hudson), so that he can discover what Silvia is really like by observing her while she doesn't know who he is. Simultaneously, Silvia has decided to do the same thing and switches places with Lisette. Also in on the game is Mario (Byron Jennings), Silvia's rascal brother."

This vintage comedy, which will be performed in period costume, presents a number of challenges to director Tony Lea and his creative team of choreographer Joy Javits, set designer Rob Hamilton, lighting designer Elizabeth Grimes-Droessler, costume designer Ida, props person Devra Thomas, and sound designer Al Singer.

"The major challenge I've found in staging this play," says Lea, "is to make it resonate as modern and accessible while honoring the style that the play embodies. The way that people behaved and related to others was different in style in the Restoration period yet must still be recognizably human. The biggest challenge is to make those human connections in ways that aren't familiar to us as actors and artists."

Lea says the set will be realistic, the lighting will be atmospheric, and the costumes will be appropriate to the period in which The Game of Love and Chance was written. "[The set suggests the] outdoor courtyard of a large estate," says Lea. "There are garden benches and a small topiary garden.... The play takes place over the course of an afternoon/evening, so we'll try to evoke a sunny, romantic day."

In commenting on a previous production of The Game of Love and Chance, The Herald of London wrote: "Marivaux has suddenly become all the rage. Not really surprising. At a time when we seem to have lost all delicacy in the art of expressing love, the 18th Century French playwright's elegant probing of the workings of the human heart comes to us like drops of rain in the desert."

The Deep Dish Theater Company presents The Game of Love and Chance Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 7-9, 14-16, and 21-23, at 8 p.m.; Wednesday, Nov. 20, at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 10 and 17, at 3 p.m. in Chapel Hill's University Mall, located on Estes Drive and U.S. 15-501. $12 ($10 students and seniors), except Pay-What-You-Can Admission Nov. 10. (NOTE: There will be a post-performance discussion Nov. 17.) 919/ 967-6934. http://www.deepdishtheater.org/lovenchance/lovenchance.html.