September 15th, 2011

The Triumph of Love: A Classical Theatre Company Production

The Classical Theatre Company is definitely onto something with their productions of gender-bending comedic romances. After last season’s much applauded production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, the talented artistic staff at CTC has again dressed an actress in breeches and sent her onstage to delight and entertain Houston audiences. The Triumph of Love, by 18th century dramatist Marivaux, is the Classical Theatre Company’s latest lesson in the timelessness of classical comedy. So, what have we learned?

We’ve learned that farces and farce-comedy-romance hybrids will always be funny, due simply to their own nature and merit. The Triumph of Love is the story of young princess Leonide, who wishes to restore the wrongfully ousted prince Agis to his throne by seeking him out for matrimony. And of course, there is no simpler way to win a man’s heart than by cross-dressing, sneaking onto the man’s secluded homestead, and shamelessly flirting with any and all residents there. Leonide not only manages to win the affections of prince Agis, but also those of his guardians, an elderly hermit philosopher Hermocrate and his spinster sister Leontine. With the help of several classic comedic characters, Leonide eventually manages to reveal the truth of her deception and achieve her worthy goal.

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We’ve learned that good direction makes all the difference in a classical play of any genre. The Triumph of Love director Julia Traber fully embraces the depth of themes found in this script. Much more than a formulaic farce writer, Marivaux made astute observations concerning the world around him, including the necessary balance between intellectual and romantic pursuits. Ms. Traber’s own balance between classic comedic devices and more plaintive moments mirror this theme and eventually culminate in a touching conclusion to the play which certainly would have pleased Marivaux, himself.

We’ve learned, once again, that some of the most talented actors in Houston are to be found at The Classical Theatre Company. Ivy Castle is the picture of a princess in the role of Leonide. Her appearance and demeanor bring to mind the entire corps of Disney royals, as she charms her way into the hearts of everyone in her path. Even as Leonide engages in potentially damaging manipulations of her love-sick admirers, Ms. Castle brings a sense of purpose and humor to the character’s actions which allow the audience to not only sympathize, but admire the character’s resolve.

Agis, the young prince in hiding, is a quick audience favorite. Matt Hune’s interpretation of the sheltered young man is a wonderful balance of complexity and hilarity. What we have here is a character boldly portrayed, not as instantly charming, but rather as slightly awkward and wandering in his knowledge of the world. Somewhat clueless and all the more romantic for his artlessness, Matt Hune’s Agis is the lost lamb of a boy that every woman has mooned over at some point in her life.

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Thomas Prior, a familiar face on CTC stages and an all-around Houston theatre veteran, turns in another brilliant performance in the role of Hermocrate. Mr. Prior handles the transition from booming philosopher to desperate lover with perfect comedic timing and instinct.

Pamela Vogel portrays a Leontine enchanting enough to woo the audience’s attention away from the young princess Leonide at times. Her performance is genuinely alluring, as she deftly creates a character who emerges from the gloom of spinsterhood and fearlessly flings herself into the unfamiliar light of love.

As is the case with many classical pieces of comedic theatre, the lead characters would likely accomplish very little without the intervention of their trusty sidekicks. The Triumph of Love would have been far less… well, triumphant without the characters of Corine (played by Bree Welch), Dimas (played by S.A. Rogers), and Harlequin (played by Xzavien Hollins*). These three performers bounce and smile, jiggle and wiggle through various turning points of the play, creating some of the biggest laughs and wittiest interludes. Punch lines are landed and slapstick is quick as they speed the plot with their interferences and bawdy one-liners.

And finally, we’ve learned from The Triumph of Love that risks are most certainly worth taking. Even before the lights are down on the final tableau of the play, the audience is uniquely aware of the play’s lessons regarding courage and perseverance. The Classical Theatre Company possessed both in choosing to produce a somewhat obscure play as their season opener, and their risk has been rewarded, as the result is a thoroughly magnetic night of theatre.

*Xzavien Hollins appeared in the role of Harlequin in the Sept. 9 performance as understudy to Phillip Hays.

The Triumph of Love by Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de Marivaux
Adapted for the Classical Theatre Company by John Johnston

Director: Julia Traber

Dates:
Thursday September 8, 2011 – 7:30pm
Friday September 9, 2011 – 7:30 pm
Saturday September 10, 2011 – 7:30 pm
Sunday September 11, 2011 – 2:30 pm

Thursday September 15, 2011 – 7:30pm
Friday September 16, 2011 – 7:30pm
Saturday September 17, 2011 – 7:30pm
Sunday September 18, 2011 – 2:30pm
Monday September 19, 2011 – 7:30pm

Thursday September 22, 2011 – 7:30pm
Friday September 23, 2011 – 7:30pm
Saturday September 24, 2011 – 7:30pm
Sunday September 25, 2011- 2:30pm

Tickets: General Admission $18, Seniors $15, Students and Industry $8

Location: Talento Bilingue de Houston
333 South Jenson Dr.
Houston, TX 77003

— Kerri

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