That Marivaux got this play put on more than 50 years before the tumbrels rolled is remarkable. In 2010, however, his very Gallic morality charade seems stiff and schematic, however decorated with commedia trimmings and Brit translator Neil Bartlett's saucy updates. Fortunately, Orfeo adds trimmings and updates of its own (though not, as the ART did in 2006, drag queens). To start with, there is Bill Barclay's now atmospheric, now winking sound design, which runs the gamut from eerie tinkling to bursts of circus music and blasts of "Sweet Caroline." Director Kathryn Walsh slams the theatrical metaphor hard, but amid the mincing and the freewheeling, the cast finds the heart of a work that in the end counsels kindness and reason.
Amanda J. Collins is a feisty Cleanthis whose leap to goodness is palpably painful — despite the touching last-minute aid of Risher Reddick's heretofore good-natured-in-spite-of-himself bacchanalian of a Harlequin. Jared Craig and Hannah Husband nail the genuine distress (and possible incorrigibility) of the humiliated toffs. And as island overseer Trivelin, part motley-clad ringmaster, part menacing man in an S&M mask, Daniel Berger-Jones runs the show with silken threat, then shuts it down like the Stage Manager of some very strange Our Town.
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