Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre, Summer Theatre 2012  

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Time travel and genre fusion seem to be two of the sports in this Game of Love and Chance.

A mix of a 16th -century form of physical theatre of Italian origin with the work of an 18th-century French playwright, best known for his focus on language, adapted/rewritten to use current language and North American slang by performers in 19th-century costumes may or may not be successful, depending on the skill of the mixer (director/adaptor).

While the version of Marivaux’s Game of Love and Chance (Le Jeu de l’amour et du hasard) that is this summer’s offering from Odyssey Theatre exhibits the high energy and retains much of the spirit of the group’s earliest commedia dell’art- style shows, the magical quality so evident in those early shows is missing.

This is partly because of some clashes between social history and this adaptation and between the original, first performed in 1730, and the Massingham version. For example, no servant in the 17th, 18th or 19th centuries would dare to suggest that she and her mistress were best friends however close that lady’s maid might have been to her employer. Neither does Marivaux’s original text suggest a possible homosexual encounter — an irrevelvant addition seeking a cheap laugh in this version. 

All this to say that this adaptation looks at the basic Marivaux storyline, almost from the other end of a telescope. Based on the theories that true love will conquer all obstacles and that class is drawn to its own level, The Game of Love and Chance tells of a young noblewoman, Silvia, acceding to her father’s choice of husband for her, provided that she can check him out before they are introduced. To do this, she changes places with her maid, Lisette. Meanwhile, Silvia’s father, Orgon, learns from the suitor’s father that he has made the same arrangement with his valet.

The double-faceted artifice opens the way for two seemingly unsuitable romances to flourish, suffer setbacks and eventually end happily.

The two feisty servants are the stock, masked characters of the commedia genre – in some respects presented a little too crudely for my taste, despite their street theatre origins. Meanwhile, the two nobles wear only the masks of pretence in trying to discover the truth about love.

Massingham’s decision to place events in the late 19th century is effective insofar as this was a time when women were moving from being considered chattels to being recognized as persons. But this tone does not sit easily with Lisette’s antics with a feather duster despite the Jody Stevens excellent physicality and boisterous presentation.

Zach Counsil delivers a delightfully stylized performance as Silvia’s brother, Mario. Elegant and stylish, his characterization creates a neat divide between the “downstairs” behaviour of the disguised servants and the contrastingly insipid approach to romance of the “upstairs” pair.

The wonderfully constructed mobile masks by Almut Ellingham are particularly noteworthy. Courtney Bamford’s lighthearted choreography, Snezana Pesic’s set and Ron Ward’s lighting (especially after dark) add to the visual appeal of the show.

The Game of Love and Chance continues at Strathcona Park to August 26.

The Game of Love and Chance

By Marivaux

Adapted by Andy Massingham

Odyssey Theatre

Director/Sound: Andy Massingham

Set /Costumes: Snezana Pesic

Lighting: Ron Ward

Masks: Almut Ellinghaus

Cast:

Silvia…………………………………………..Stephanie Lisak

Lisette…………………………………………Jody Stevens

M. Orgon………………………………………Chris Ralph

Mario…………………………………………..Zach Counsil

Dorante…………………………………………Daniel Briere

Arlequino……………………………………….Evan Dowling

Second maid…………………………………….unnamed in program