Thursday, October 1, 2009

something borrowed, something blew at neptune debut

neptune kicked off its 47th season friday night and i was perched in the balcony for the game of love and chance.

anyone ever read leonard cohen's the favorite game? now there's a book about love. love and chance... not so much.

here's my review for CC:

Picture it: the year is 2309 and Neptune Theatre is kicking off its season. The new artistic director wants to start the year with a bang, so he dusts off a classic.

“Failure to Launch has lost none of its power to move us and make us laugh,” he explains of the 300-year-old rom-com originally starring the long-dead Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew McConaughey. “I am reminded of that every day in rehearsal.”

Flashback to last Friday at Fountain Hall, and that’s pretty much what happened. New artistic director George Pothitos resurrects Marivaux’s mediocre comedy The Game of Love and Chance, a dated, class-based comedy of errors about courtly love.

The plot: an upper-class gal and an upper-class guy are set to marry, but decide it would be prudent to first meet each other before agreeing to their fathers’ match. Then, *semi-spoiler alert*, both upper-class lovers decide to pretend to be their servants, so they can observe their intended from afar. So, everyone falls in love with the “wrong” person, and it takes two hours and 20 minutes to sort things out.

The fullish house on opening night was laughing, and there were some good lines. Adrian Griffin (Harlequin) and Jody Stevens (Lisette) play the servants, and so have the juicier roles: they soak the stage with their bawdy comedy.

When Harlequin is concerned disguised Lisette is about to find him out as a fraud, he compels her to swear to permanent love, regardless of “mistakes and false assumptions.” Sage advice.

David Snelgrove (Dorante) and Sharon Bernbaum (Silvia) are colder on stage; it’s hard to see what either would see in the other. Both are snobby and ill treat their servants. Dorante spends much of his time kicking Harlequin around for daring to have his own mind.

And this is the problem with Love and Chance. It was written centuries ago in a world where the idea of falling in love with someone not in your class was an innately hilarious premise.
The moral of the story is that class is an essential thing, and the heart knows it. Over here in 2009, we see that for the bankrupt idea it always was.

The Neptune players work hard to mine humour from this moribund text, but most of the laughs come from physical comedy — the timeless amusement of people pulling faces. Griffin and Stevens excel at this, and there was a happy sigh from the audience whenever they took over the stage from the frosty, classicist, small-mindedness of their masters.

In his write up of the play, Pothitos says Love and Chance was “new and probably troubling in 1730.” Right: it was groundbreaking three hundred years ago, in pre-Revolution France.
In modern Halifax, you’d learn more about love downloading Failure to Launch.

The Game of Love and Chance is at Neptune Theatre until Oct. 18. Call 429-7070 or go to Neptunetheatre.com for tickets.
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