Triumph of Love

Updated February 11, 2017 | Infoplease Staff
Based on the play by:Marivaux
Book:James Magruder
Music:Jeffrey Stock
Lyrics:Susan Birkenhead
Director:Michael Mayer
Choreography:Doug Varone
Sets:Heidi Ettinger
Costumes:Catherine Zuber
Lighting:Paul Gallo
Sound:Brian Ronan
Opened:10/97 at the Royale Theater
Cast:Susan Egan, F. Murray Abraham, Betty Buckley, Christopher Sieber, Kevin Chamberlin, Roger Bart and Nancy Opel

Perhaps this sagging production should be renamed ?Triumph of Betty Buckley.? The always-spectacular performer saves the show, a double-entrendre-riddled doozy based on Marivaux's 18th century comedy. Bringing low comedy to subterranean depths, the production draws from the type of comedy performed by Italian commedia dell 'arte troupes. However, Mayer and Magruder's modern-day approach lacks any sense of clever improvisation and expressive physical comedy intrinsic to the genre. It's the story of Spartan Princess Leonide (Egan), who, with her maid in tow (Opel), invades the home of Hemocrates (Abraham) and his sister Hesione. The Princess's goal is to win the love of Hemocrate's pupil, the ravishing Agis (Sieber), who it turns out is the rightful heir to the Princess's throne and had been raised to loathe her. A hare-brained scheme ensues with Egan donning drag and enlisting the help of the servants. This romp about deception and philosophical and gender metamorphoses thrills in dirt-cheap, desperate laughs, invoking every groaning innuendo one can imagine about gardening (?I haven't used my fertilizer in a long time,? smirks the gardener lasciviously.). Thank goodness for Buckley. She brings down the house with the delightful ?Serenity? and gratefully puts a perspective on the show's rampant bawdiness. Also notable in an erratic score is a duet sung by Buckley and F. Murray Abraham as Hesione's stiff brother, though often his voice kilters off-key. Overall, the production lacks anything close to an artful touch, with Buckley emerging as the only character who escapes cartoonishness.

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