The glitter revived

The Scandal Exposed (La Fausse Suivante)

By Marivaux
Directed by Anne Beaumont

The Liar

By Pierre Corneille
Directed by Mark Gordon
Millennium Stage (340-1222)
The Creative Place Theatre (750 8th Ave.)
Non union productions (in repertory through Dec. 22)
Review by Sarah Stevenson

One of Millennium Stage's classic French comedies was set in its own period (the 18th century), the other was a bit closer to modern in setting (that ever-stage-worthy period -- the '70s). And yet the productions had two very important things in common -- sheer talent and high standards. Both plays provided a showcase for consistently excellent actors, and surrounding them with equally stunning production values, including a beautiful set that worked for both productions (designed by directors Anne Beaumont and Mark Gordon) and divine costumes designed by Careen Fowles (sumptuous and elegant for the neo-classical Marivaux, witty and decadent for the '70s Corneille).

The Scandal Exposed is a prime example of Marivaux's trademark scintillating wit, devilishly clever language, and cross-dressed heroines. Aimee Phelan was the charming Chevalier, a young heiress disguised as a man in order to expose the true character of the scoundrel Lelio (Paul James Bowen). And in wooing the Countess (Francesca Marrone) in order to free her from her love for Lelio, the sensuality is marked. Lelio's bumbling (and far less sexy) efforts prove no match for the androgynously sexy Chevalier.

As the servants Frontine, Trivelin and Harlequin, Randi Glass, Michael Rubinstein and Marc Weitz added the physical comic touches. Weitz also added a powerful singing voice to the occasional song. Other than a rushed and hence confusing ending (with a jarring epilogue partially borrowed from Shakespeare), the company mined the rich depths beneath the apparently simple surface of Marivaux's plot.

Written a century before The Scandal Exposed, The Liar was, in the Millennium stage production, set several centuries later -- The Seventies. As Paris's number-one groovy eligible bachelor, Dorante (Jason Williams) proves himself also its most quick-witted liar as he attempts to woo Lucrece (or is it Clarice?), and escape from the match his father (Ricky Reardon) has arranged with Clarice (or is that Lucrece?). A simple mistaken identity evolves into full scale farce as the two nifty babes (played beautifully by Meredith Smyth Hlafter and Valerie Palencar) are thrown off by his seeming indecision, as is the seemingly spurned lover Alcippe (Eric Peterson). An ensemble piece par excellence, The Liar also featured excellent performances by Darius Stone, Sam Mercer, Kristin Johansen and Kelly W. Terrell. (Choreography, Shan Bryant.)

Under Gordon's direction and adaptation, the text retained its classical language and feel -- it is almost entirely in rhymed verse -- while also blending flawlessly into its new modern setting, with some groovy lingo to match.

The modernizations are clever, but never become grating -- an impressive feat when dealing with the '70s! The two plays run in repertory Wednesdays to Sundays. And if the appetite for la comédie française is whetted rather than sated by these two delicious productions, they will be joined by a double bill of Moliere one-acts -- ``Love,'' ``The Doctor'' and ``The Imaginary Cuckold,'' running Mondays and Tuesdays.

Box Score:
Writing 2
Directing 2
Acting 2
Set 2
Costumes 2
Lighting/Sound 2
Copyright 1996 Sarah Stevenson

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