"LA DISPUTE:" A COMIC DEBATE OVER AN AGE OLD QUESTION


BONNIE GOLDBERG

As age old questions go, which came first the chicken or the egg? and why did the chicken cross the road? are often debated. Another conundrum might well be the one that dates back to Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden. For French playwright Marivaux, that query was worthy of a play to answer the puzzle: who is more unfaithful in love, woman or man?

Maybe you personally have not stayed awake nights weighing the evidence on both sides, but clearly Marivaux did and the Hartford Stage is taking delight in offering you the opportunity to judge his theatrical and social experiment. Penned in 1744, "La Dispute" will put you squarely in the arena of love until Sunday, November 10, playing in repertory with Shakespeare's "Macbeth."

On a dramatic snow white set of swirled wood cut out trees beautifully designed, with a stream, by Jedediah Ike, a Prince (Grant Goodman) and his lady Hermianne (Kate MacCluggage) playfully agree to disagree on the pressing issue at hand: infidelity. Conveniently the Prince's father grappled with the same query at least 18 years earlier and set in motion an experiment to resolve the issue once and for all.

Four orphans were raised in isolation, two girls and two boys, with their only human contact two guardians Carise (Kate Forbes) and Mesrou (David Manis). Now eighteen years later the Prince and his lady hide in the forest to observe what happens when the four are "unleashed" into the garden to an unknown world.

First to arrive is Egle, a delightfully taken with herself Kaliswa Brewster, who loves herself to excess and could stare at her own reflection for eons. When the handsome and quite different human Azor (Jeffrey Omura) appears, she at first thinks he is a she, a mistake that is quickly corrected when they instantly fall madly in love.

When their caretakers caution them that separation is healthy to keep their new love strong, Azor departs and moments later Adine (Mahira Kakkar) flies in on happy feet. Adine is clearly as enchanted with herself and as vain as Egle and equally as besotted with her male counterpart Mesrin (Philippe Bowgen) whom she has just met.

What happens when the couples, who have sworn undying love for each other, meet the other's mate is predictably outrageous and instantaneous. A chaotic battlefield erupts with director Darko Tresnjak serving as unofficial referee. Tresnjak adapted the piece, seventy minutes in length without an intermission, with Elizabeth Williamson, from her translation.

For tickets ($25-85), call the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at www.hartfordstage.org. Performances are, in repertory with "Macbeth," Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Sunday and select Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2 p.m.

Hold up a mirror (or a magnifying glass) to examine the intricate ingredients that comprise true love and dangerous seduction.

 

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