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Changes of Heart at Remy Bumppo Theatre Company

Published on 6th December 2011

★★☆☆☆

Remy Bumppo Theatre Company. By Pierre de Marivaux. Dir. Timothy Douglas. With Alana Arenas, Nicolas Gamboa, Linda Gillum, Steve Wojtas. 2hrs 45mins; two intermissions.

Remy Bumppo recasts Marivaux’s 1723 commedia in 1960s Chicago. The Prince’s court is on the North Shore, and country rubes Silvia (Alana Arenas) and Harlequin (Nicolas Gamboa) are native South Siders. So we’re told in the program, anyway. Timothy Douglas’s concept may well be a useful lens for understanding the class distinctions of Marivaux’s pre- Revolution France. But aside from a kicky ’60s soundtrack, that concept doesn’t really show up onstage; anyone who hasn’t read that this was meant to be Chicago wouldn’t have a clue. Douglas’s program notes tell us what his production doesn’t show.

That said, this is a mostly well-acted rendition of Marivaux’s complex comedy of love’s inconstancies, here in Stephen Wadsworth’s 1994 translation-adaptation. The Prince (an amusingly grave Steve Wojtas), smitten with commoner Silvia, abducts her to his court, intent on making her return his affections, but Silvia pines for her hot-blooded hometown love Harlequin. Gamboa’s buffoon is the hardest element to swallow when it comes to the “Chicago” setting; the actor plays Harlequin in the broadest of strokes and with a thick accent that makes him sound like a Sofía Vergara impersonator. He feels out of place among the more grounded farceurs in the cast. Arenas is achingly honest as usual, and Linda Gillum hits the right notes as a manipulative courtier. Douglas’s production has its fair share of charm, but sluggish pacing tends to drain the comedy of its sparkle. —Kris Vire

Time Out Chicago issue no. 354, December 8–14, 2011