KPBS AIRDATE: November 21, 2003
It’s theatrical chiaroscuro; love looked at through dark shadows and filtered through dappled, sunny light. Two vastly different plays, playwrights, countries, eras. But a similar question arises in both: Do you love me for the right reasons? Would you still marry me if I were a carpenter and you were a lady? Love is put to the test in an 18th century French farce by Marivaux, “The Game of Love and Chance,” and in Arthur Miller’s throbbing 1955 drama, “A View from the Bridge.” One play is buoyant and whimsical, with a gentle undertone of gravity. The other, an American classic, is a dark exploration of love in its many forms: familial, incestuous, cultural, marital. The depth and shadows are occasionally permeated with humor.
Both plays transport and inspire us, in magnificent local productions.
It’s always Miller-time in the theater. The plays of the American master are rooted in a particular time, place and political situation, but they remain eternally relevant. In “A View from the Bridge,” Arthur Miller confronts issues that could have been ripped off the front page of the paper: homophobia, incest, betrayal, illegal immigrants. The structure harks back to the dramatic traditions of classical Greek tragedy, with the audience knowing the outcome at the outset, with a chorus of sorts, in the form of a lawyer who’s both inside and out of the action, telling us what’s coming and how inexorable, inevitable, the ending is. The main character, Brooklyn longshoreman Eddie Carbone, has the requisite tragic flaws that will cause his downfall. This is deep, delicious drama, full of human insight and emotion, and acted to perfection. Renaissance Theatre’s director George Flint has assembled an outstanding cast that makes every high-tension moment palpable and visceral. It’s a wonderful, gut-wrenching, thought-provoking play in a stirring and spellbinding production.
On the lighter side, there’s Moonlight Stage Production’s “Game of Love and Chance,” a French farce in a new, updated translation with a definite relevance to modern courtship, romance, and the search for true love. Thanks to designer Mike Buckley, the stage looks like a dreamy Watteau painting, framed in ornate gold. Gilded angels fly overhead. With its marble statuary and formal greenery, the setting is a romantic idyll where all sorts of shenanigans take place. The objects of an arranged, upper-class marriage check each other out by secretly trading places with their servants. Everyone falls for a seemingly unacceptable mate, but after a high-octane comedy of errors, replete with deception, innuendo and mistaken identity, all’s well that ends well. A master of comic timing, director Jimmy Saba leads his splendid cast through a side-splitting series of missed connections, tinged by wit, wisdom and a few lessons in love. So, get a laugh, and get into “The Game.”
©2003 Patté Productions Inc.