Corrections or additions?
Critic: Joan Crespi. Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on February 16,
2000. All rights reserved.
Review: `Triumph of Love’
Triumph of Love," at the intimate Off-Broadstreet
Theater through March 11, is billed as a slightly bawdy musical romp.
A brief grabbing of breasts, a woman’s head near a man’s clad
and the expression "stopus interruptus," is about all the
overt sex you will get. Most of the play is quite decorous, with
from Shakespeare of women posing as men, but here the gender switching
is ratcheted up.
Based on "The Triumph of Love" by Pierre Marivaux and updated,
with vernacular language supplied, the musical has book by James
music by Jeffrey Stock, and lyrics by Susan Birkenhead. This
played briefly on Broadway in winter of 1997-’98, when Betty Buckley
was nominated for a Tony for best actress in a musical.
Writing decades after Moliere but before the French revolution,
characters are of two distinct social classes, aristocrats and
and they dress accordingly. There’s the clever servant from Roman
plays, here named Corine. (In Moliere’s "Tartuffe," she’s
Dorine.) Pamela Linkin plays her with spunk, verve, and confidence.
Aiding her in providing comic relief are Bernard Broyles as a witty,
nimble Harlequin, and Tom Orr as Dimas, the uninspired gardener
in, yes, organic gardening.
In this comedy (it ends in a wedding-to-be), most comic scenes are
provided by the servants, including the outstanding production number,
"Henchmen are Forgotten." The aristocratic characters take
themselves more seriously. It is also a satire on the exclusive use
of reason and the mind, here called "philosophy," as well
as a satire of class structure ("Never cross class lines"
is the first lesson of servant school, says Corine, the saucy
The story is set in a formal French garden — the amateurishly
painted trees at the center of the set detract from this — in
a secluded corner of 18th-century Greece, in Sparta, which is to be
ruled only by the mind. Agis, the rightful king of Sparta, has been
kept in seclusion by his aunt and uncle, the brother and sister
Hesione (Sharon Alexander) and Hermocrates (Richard Chibbaro), raised
for the day, today, when he must kill the one who has usurped the
throne, Princess Leonide (Suzanne Houston). Her parents killed his
As she runs onstage, Leonide, resolute yet delicate
looking, prettily costumed in pink, is followed by her servant,
Leonide, already love-struck after having seen Agis, has given up
everything (both crown and kingdom) to pursue her true love. Does
John Zimmerman as a plump, stolid Agis have the face that sunk
Leonide? Yet it’s her singular quest that propels this play. To gain
entrance into the household (and make Agis love her), Leonide changes
into men’s clothing (so does Corine) and she becomes Phocion (male)
to Hesione and Agis. She agrees to become Agis’ friend, even to kill
Leonide. Her deception as a man is eventually discovered by
who tells no one. Later she’s Cecile (female) with a Southern accent
to Agis. Interlaced are scenes where Corine, now Troy (male), then
female (as her deception is also discovered) wins the valet, then
the gardener: she’s sought a grower of organic fruits and vegetables.
If all of this gender switching — at one point Leonide shows up
in a man’s knickers and a woman’s fitted pink top — seems
it is. Tightening the snare, Leonide gives Hesione and Hemocrates
each a cameo portrait and the two philosophers find themselves in
love with her (or him). Agis also loves her — now as Cecile.
Leonide laments her multiple, entangling deceptions, done for love.
The story is sung and so seems less silly and contrived. While none
of the voices is outstanding, Sharon Alexander’s is notable, and all
are adequate. Actors Alexander and Chibbaro are Off-Broadstreet
each having appeared in 23 productions. The four-piece orchestra is
directed by Ed McCall.
Robert Thick directed this production that is more ambitious than
the dessert theater’s fare, and the ensemble is not altogether up
to the task. Patricia Hibbert chose the beautiful costumes, one of
the show’s best features: rich cloth, ornately decorated, for the
aristocratic characters, rustic for the commoners.
Leonide’s presence has changed everyone. All three aristocrats are
in love with her/him, while Corine struts off with Harlequin and Dimas
to live in a menage-a-trois. Love has triumphed, vanquishing
intellect or philosophy alone. Leonide confesses her true identity.
Agis and Leonide resolve to marry. Leonide gladly crowns Agis king
of Sparta. (She’ll be his queen.)
The difficult play does end movingly as affairs of the heart triumph
over all the characters. Although Hesione and Hermocrates — both
converts to love — are disappointed in the marriage plans,
they are not embittered at Leonide’s deceptions: Hesione quips:
we’ll meet someone at the wedding."
— Joan Crespi
Greenwood Avenue, Hopewell, 609-466-2766. Fridays to Sundays, to March
11. $20.50 and $22.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.