Triumph of Love

Cody Baldwin

Pierre Marivaux's 1732 love story is nothing if not convoluted and downright strange, and this group of student performers gives it an entertaining ride. Our protagonist is Princess Léonide (Breana Jarvis), who has fallen in love at first sight with the young scholar Agis (Alex Brightwell). But there are considerable complications. Léonide sits on the throne that should rightfully belong to Agis (due to the previous generation's shenanigans), for starters. And Agis, having been raised in seclusion, has been taught to disdain women in general and Léonide in particular. Of course there's only one thing for her to do: dress up as a man. So she scores some breeches and, along with her attendant Corine (Christian Bardin), heads for the countryside to befriend Agis. I know what you're thinking—so few lasting romances are founded on gender fraud—but the Princess is undeterred. She's quickly found out by the philosopher Hermocrate (Dustin Bronson) and, in a sense, his sister Léontine (Suzy Kohane), so she indulges her pathological-liar streak and tricks them both into falling in love with her. While the edge of your seat will remain unbothered in regard to how it all comes out, the cast hurl themselves into this madness with sharp performances and good-natured humor (Nathan Barlow's Harlequin and Zach Soules's Dimas provide rustic comic relief, while Bronson and Kohane wrest gobs of humor from their characters' haughty cluelessness). Musical director Denise Prosek and director Peter Rothstein also make some canny choices in the between-scene musical numbers, which draw on Gershwin, Coward, and Berlin to evoke a nicely measured sense of sweet folly, which is after all one of the best ways of looking at romance. By the end, my most prominent question was why various misled parties didn't unite to dispatch Léonide to the period equivalent of a mental hospital for borderline personality disorder, but then I realized I was imposing my culture on the storytelling of another time. Cross-dressing, bullshitting, manipulative subterfuge in the name of love? We could do worse. And it was a load of fun to watch. $20-$30. 8 p.m. Tue.-Sat., 2:30 p.m. Tue., Thu., Sat.; Minnesota Centennial Showboat, Harriet Island, St. Paul; 651.227.1100. Through August 28 —Quinton Skinner

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