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THEATER BEAT

Gender-Bending 'Love' Triumphs With Sophisticated Mix of Romance and Farce

November 03, 1995|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY

When it came to women's roles, the 18th-Century French dramatist Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de Marivaux was far ahead of his time. The character who calls all the shots in "The Triumph of Love," Marivaux's enchanting, commedia- influenced comedy, presented by singular productions at the Ivy Substation, just happens to be a woman--a female Machiavelli who plots not for power but for love.

Princess Leonide (Rebecca Marcotte), the schemer in question, falls in love from afar with Agis (Bill Brochtrup), the usurped heir to her own throne. Dressed in gentlemen's duds, Leonide and her faithful maid Corine (Elizabeth Cheap) infiltrate the household of the pompous philosopher Hermocrate (Weston Blakesley), with whom Agis lives. Hermocrate's venal servants Dimas (Bill Barker) and Harlequin (Michael David Edwards) quickly nose out Leontine's wealth and abet her in her plot.

Hermocrate and his spinster sister Leontine (Christy Barrett) detest love--and they have carefully reared their ward Agis to feel exactly the same way. However, when Leonide pitches woo not only to Agis but to Hermocrate and Leontine as well, a lot of gender-bending confusion results.

With subtle wit and sophistication, adapter Stephen Wadsworth contemporizes the play without violating the period. Director Jessica Kubzansky employs a light hand with this delicate French confection, a delicious blending of the farcical and the romantic with just a pinch of naughtiness. Although highly mannered, the actors ground their characters firmly in reality, never mugging or straining for laughs, and getting all the more as a result.

* "The Triumph of Love," Ivy Substation, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends Dec. 16. $17. (310) 558-1555. Running time: 2 hours, 45 minutes.

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