by David BellContributing Writer
It's too bad this production couldn't have opened on Valentine's Day. Pierre Marivaux's The Triumph of Love, a fantasy staged in a lush production at the UH School of Theatre, has all the giddiness, frivolity and heartbreak that the holiday implies.
In a beautiful, mountainous landscape, a small group of philosophers are hidden away to ponder the great mysteries of life. In order to remain emotionally detached from their universal subject, they deny themselves the privilege of love.
However, when the philosophers attempt to study love in an experiment, coupled with the arrival of a young princess in disguise, they find it difficult to remain neutral.
One philosopher described love as an infection. "Reason will inoculate me," she declares.
Just like an outbreak of the clap, love knows no boundaries, and sooner or later, all are within its spell. Whether love forces the philosophers' hearts to soar or break in two, it makes no difference, for it is better to feel something rather than nothing.
The sets and the costumes, designed by John Gow and Joel Ebarb, respectively, are the stars of the play. Using the painter Maxfield Parrish as their inspiration, they fashion a fantastic world where man and nature are not in conflict with each other, but instead, practically synonymous.
The only drawback to having beautiful scenery is that the performers have to match the energy that flows from the bright colors of the shimmering stream and the metallic fabrics. Most didn't.
Anthony Hubert, who plays Harlequin, a smitten prankster, did. The degree to which he invested emotion and belief into his character upstaged the landscape and was a tribute to the institution of passion. I wanted to see more of that investment from all of the actors.
There were times during the play that certain performances led me to believe that the power of love is no big deal. Obviously, they haven't experienced the wrenching pain of when a lover says, "We need a little time apart," and then they never ever call back no matter how many times you try and get a hold of them. But I digress ... .
Much like his previous UH production of She Stoops To Conquer, director Mark Olsen was particularly adept at breathing new life into a period work. A wealth of comedy and humanity lurking deep within the dusty pages of this 18th century play get a second chance when seen through the sharp eye of Olsen.
The production was a pleasant, two-hour diversion from the wastelands of my own sordid relationships. Much like many of the School of Theatre's other main stage shows, feel free to leave your brain at the door.
The Triumph of Love closes this weekend with performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday. For more information or tickets, call 743-2929.