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THEATER REVIEW

Marivaux's classic tale is a 'Triumph'

October 24, 2003|Rob Kendt | Special to The Times

I'd like to report a mugging at a historic site.

The suspect is a white male, about 6 feet tall, lanky build, with short, grayish hair but a curiously youthful elasticity and speed. He was last seen on the grounds of Barnsdall Art Park in a rumpled black suit, winking and bowing.

Rather than press charges, though, we should thank the gods of commedia that Casey Smith's Arlecchino, whose antics and deep-dish Italian accent would shame Roberto Benigni, has been allowed to run away with much of "The Triumph of Love" in a lean, smart, beguiling new rendition by director Scott Rabinowitz.

Staged in the back garden of Frank Lloyd Wright's stony, low-slung charmer the Hollyhock House, this "Triumph," by A Small Company in association with Chautauqua Theatre Alliance, uses a taut new translation by Rod McLucas and a 1920s setting to tell Marivaux's classic tale of deceit and seduction.

Smith's manic butler doesn't own the whole show; he has stiff competition from Troy Blendell's furiously Gallic gardener. And confidently occupying the play's sweet heart is Jacy Gross as the Princess Leonidis, who, disguised in natty suit and fedora (period-perfect threads by Elif Inanc), coolly manipulates the occupants of a sex-starved intellectual retreat into a free-for-all frenzy of amour. If she seems a little too cool, too assured of success in her well-laid plot, it's because there's zero heat between her and her supposed true object, Agis (Ryan Janis).

Luckily, Janis is the only dud here. As philosopher Hermocrates and spinster Leontina, David Razowksy and Shelly Sproles paint well-arced comic portraits of, respectively, stodgy absent-mindedness and strait-laced repression melting to lust. As Leonidis' maid, Ameenah Kaplan makes knockabout gems of her few moments.

At play's end, as lovers clinch in a nimbus of natural backlighting and Casey Cohen's accordion score breathes its knowing benediction, this "Triumph" lives up to its name.

*

`The Triumph of Love'

*

Where: Hollyhock House, Barnsdall Art Park, 4800 Hollywood Blvd.

When: Saturdays-Sundays, 3 p.m.

Ends: Nov. 16

Price: $20

Contact: (323) 960-8865

Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

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