Triumph of Love (review)

If there’s one thing that director Clare Peploe’s adaptation of Pierre Marivaux’s 18th-century play proves, it’s that some things should stay buried in the past, where they belong. That’s not quite fair, perhaps — maybe Marivaux is fine in French, and maybe properly staged it’s a treat. Here, it comes off like a bad imitation of the Bard, Shakespearean canoodling at a Italian villa involving girls disguised as boys, a hidden prince, an usurped king, unlikely romantic shenanigans, and comic relief from the working class. Mira Sorvino (Mimic) is the princess of the realm who travels incognito and crossdressed to the secluded home of a famed philosopher (Ben Kingsley: Sneakers) and his studmuffin ward, Agis (Jay Rodan)… (take a deep breath) with whom the princess fell in love upon first sight even though he’s the son of the deposed king and the princess’s sworn enemy and he’s been taught to hate women. Figuring to get close to Agis as a new male chum, the princess dons pantaloons and drops her voice an octave in a “We are all jolly fellows here!” manner. The thing is, even old Willie’s blind King Lear wouldn’t mistake Sorvino for a man. If this absurdity isn’t intentional, that’d be bad enough, but I suspect it may well be according to plan, considering the self-conscious staginess of the whole affair — particularly awkward is the scene in which the princess delivers lines meant to be spoken by Agis, for no reason I can fathom except that Peploe may be aiming for a “We are all snootier-than-thou thespians here!” attitude. Best bad moments, though, are the ones in which Kingsley appears to be reading his lines off cue cards just offscreen. If the cast can’t even be bothered to put in some effort, I don’t see why the audience should, either.

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