Rarely has the 18th century been quite as fun as in the Khan Theatre production of Marivaux’s The Game of Love and Chance directed by Gita Munte. The director’s vision conveys the French playwright’s wit, playful spirit and insight into the intricacies of the human mind through the creative integration of all elements of the production. It is a delight for the eye and ear that captivates the heart.
The plot is disarmingly simple. Monsieur Orgon (Erez Shafrir) has agreed with his friend that their children shall marry on the condition that both are in accord with this plan, and he conveys as much to his daughter Sylvia (Nili Rogel), emphasizing that the choice shall be hers alone. The intended groom, Dorante (Ariel Wolf) is to arrive so that the two young people can meet, and here is where the plot becomes delightfully and predictably twisted. Wisely cautious of the pitfalls of marriage, Sylvia exchanges places with her maidservant Lisette (Tamar Alkan) so that she may observe Dorante from that safe vantage point. Little does she know that Dorante and his servant Arlequin (Yoav Hyman) have the same idea in mind. Orgon and Sylvia’s brother Mario (Liron Baraness) do know, but aren’t telling, the better to enjoy a bit of a game with Sylvia.
There are so many things to enjoy in this production, not the least is the self-referential text that revels in the joys and angst of life as theatre – the different roles and games we play with one another, the thrill of uncertainty, and the fun of being “in the know” and watching as the dramas unfold.
Dori Parnes always reflects a deep understanding of the musical quality of language in his translations; in this case he has created the music as well, which takes on a central role in the play. Far more than an entertaining accompaniment, the musical sequences reflect the character’s internal monologue within the play, comic and tuneful. The choice to have live music performed from the balcony, by musicians in costume (Dori Parnes/Lior Ronen – keyboards, Keren Golan – flute, Eduardo Abramson – bandoneon) creates a festive atmosphere and further emphasizes the “performance” aspect of the undertaking at hand. Polina Adamov’s use of rich colors, lush fabrics and a set design that is as ornamental as it is functional, create an environment for the play that references the period in a jocular, affectionate and contemporary way.
Nili Rogel is outstanding as the skeptical Sylvia, who refuses to be led astray by appearances, declaring that looks are an unnecessary luxury (one of Parnes’ many rhyming gems: מותרות מיותרות) yet is deliciously duped. The savvy heroine suspects that something is awry, even saying that her father and brother are “playing a comedy” with her, yet is thrown into confusion by her own beliefs and emotions. Rogel conveys a mesmerizing range of emotions in quick succession, moving from one to another at racing speed, with impeccable timing. Conveying the internal conflict of her character with a virtuoso comic performance, her body language is wonderfully expressive.
Ariel Wolf brings a tender, bashful quality to Dorante, imbuing his character with a sweet innocence and sincerity. They make a lovely couple. Movement is one of the pleasures of this production, with physical comedy that runs the gamut from nuanced expression to slapstick. The entire cast is excellent, with Yoav Hyman as an outrageously out of control Arlequin, and Erez Shafir creating a loveable father figure, who exudes so much joy and is just silly enough so that the audience laughs not only at, but with him.
The Game of Love and Chance by Marivaux
Director: Gita Munte; Translation & Music: Dori Parnes; Set and Costume Design: Polina Adamov; Lighting Design: Roni Cohen; Voice coach: Dorit Atzmon; Keyboards: Dori Parnes / Lior Ronen; Flute: Keren Golan; Bandoneon: Eduardo Abramson; Actors: Erez Shafrir, Ariel Wolf, Nili Rogel, , Liron Baraness, Yoav Hyman.