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1st Stage The Game of Love and Chance

By • Sep 22nd, 2009 • Category: Reviews
The Game of Love and Chance
1st Stage
1st Stage, Tyson’s Corner, VA
$15-$25
Through October 4th
Reviewed September 19th, 2009

To get into this play’s action, you have to scramble over a heap of quaint debris. First there’s the basic premise: It would be really, really hilarious if an aristocrat fell in love with a servant girl, almost as funny as if an heiress fell for a chauffeur. And what if an heiress and aristocrat disguised themselves as, respectively, a servant girl and a chauffeur — oh ho ho, such merriment! And on top of that, what if at the behest of their respective employers, a real servant girl and a real chauffeur disguised themselves as an heiress and an aristocrat (but not really; the disguises are garish clown costumes). Ha, ha, ha, what fun! And then the two in servant’s uniforms act all refined and haughty, while the servants in gaudy parodies of high class finery act all coarse and low down. Oh, my, what a lot of comic ingenuity it takes to devise such a laughable set-up.

Or so it seemed in 1730 when Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de Marivaux’s satirical farce The Game of Love and Chance premiered in Paris.

Now all that laborious dramatic scaffolding isn’t funny in itself. It is tolerable, however, as an entryway into a clever little comedy of manners. Director Mark Krikstan‘s staging of Stephen Wadsworth’s 1997 translation/adaptation of The Game of Love and Chance, now playing at 1st Stage, comes off as an amusingly intricate picture puzzle.

Krikstan’s six-member cast is unstinting in its display of farcical mannerisms. Beth Rothschild and Jacob Yeh, as the high-borns posing as low-borns, specialize in bursts of haughtiness that break through brittle attempts at humility. Lucas Beck and Nevie Brooks, as servants trying to act like masters, specialize in gauche clumsiness that burlesques pretenses to elegance and grace.

Jon Jon Johnson and David Winkler, as the heiress’ father and brother, respectively, are scheming jokesters barely able to control their delight in their own cleverness. And Winkler does good things with the shiny grand piano that adds considerable swankiness to a classy set. Krikstan, who in addition to directing the show designed the scenery, has interpolated Cole Porter tunes. That, along with 1930s costumes by Cheryl Patton Wu, fast forwards Marivaux’s action about two centuries.

Getting back to all these disguises and ruses — what are they for, anyway? Purportedly they are a means of finding out what a proposed bride and groom in an arranged marriage are Really Like. Purport aside, what they are essentially is underpinning for a comedy of errors. Marivaux’s scaffolding and underpinning are exasperatingly laborious at times. But at other times, they justify themselves as launching devices for laughs.

Photo Gallery

Jacob Yeh and Beth Rothschild as rich people pretending to be servants Jacob Yeh, left, with Lucas Beck and Beth Rothschild
Jacob Yeh and Beth Rothschild as rich people pretending to be servants
Jacob Yeh, left, with Lucas Beck and Beth Rothschild
Jacob Yeh, left, and Lucas Beck, center, as master and servant who have switched places, with their host, Jon Johnson Lucas Beck, left, knows he’s only posing as an upper-class bachelor, and Nevie Brooks knows she’s only posing as his prospective wife – but neither kn
Jacob Yeh, left, and Lucas Beck, center, as master and servant who have switched places, with their host, Jon Johnson
Lucas Beck, left, knows he’s only posing as an upper-class bachelor, and Nevie Brooks knows she’s only posing as his prospective wife – but neither kn
David Winkler, right, and Jon Johnson Jacob Yeh and Nevie Brooks
David Winkler, right, and Jon Johnson
Jacob Yeh and Nevie Brooks
Lucas Beck and Nevie Brooks are servants masquerading as their masters Nevie Brooks, left, is the servant masquerading as mistress, and Beth Rothschild is the mistress who switched places with her
Lucas Beck and Nevie Brooks are servants masquerading as their masters
Nevie Brooks, left, is the servant masquerading as mistress, and Beth Rothschild is the mistress who switched places with her

Photos provided by 1st Stage.

Cast

  • Harlequin: Lucas Beck
  • Lisette: Nevie Brooks
  • Orgon: Jon Jon Johnson
  • Silvia: Beth Rothschild
  • Mario: David Winkler
  • Dorante: Jacob Yeh

Crew

  • Set: Mark Krikstan
  • Costumes: Cheryl Patton Wu
  • Lighting: Sebastian Wilbern
  • Musical Direction: Jane Margulies Kalbfeld and David Winkler
  • Vocal Coaching: Jane Margulies
  • Scenic Art: Jerry Kerns
  • Production Graphics: Peter Van Valken
  • Stage Manager: Emily Mills
  • Director: Mark Krikstan
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lives in Arlington with his wife, daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren. Before retiring last year at age 70, he was theater critic at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for 27 years. Prior to that, he reviewed plays for the Philadelphia Bulletin, the Texas Observer and the Swarthmore College Phoenix. Non-reviewing journalistic jobs include writing for the Houston Chronicle, the San Juan (Puerto Rico) Star and El Mundo de San Juan. Think about it: most of the papers he worked for no longer exist. Maybe this internet gig has better longevity prospects.

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