Love is in the air

Bristol Riverside Theatre’s season concludes with ‘Triumph of Love’ through Sunday

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

It’s showtime: The dynamic duo of Harlequin (Adam Hoyak) and Dimas (Danny Rutigliano) star in Bristol Riverside Theatre’s Triumph of Love. Source: Mark Garvin

All Princess Leonide wanted was for the handsome Agis to notice her. Instead, she’s left juggling the infatuations of his stuffy aunt and uncle, a best friend caught in a love triangle, and the task of remembering the multiple personalities she created. Oh, and did we mention she agreed to help Agis kill … her?

Love makes us do some crazy things, and this raw human emotion is at the forefront of Bristol Riverside Theatre’s final production of its 2017–2018 season. Triumph of Love, based on a play written by Pierre Carlet de Marivaux, transports audiences back to the 18 century, a time when thrones were won through battles and poofy gowns were all the rage.

Opening night of the musical took place Thursday, May 3, welcoming first-timers and season ticket holders alike. For those who had the pleasure of experiencing BRT’s outstanding version of The Producers in March, they went into the evening with high expectations. Triumph of Love didn’t disappoint, instantly immersing guests into Leonide’s royal world as the orchestra began to play the overture while sporting matching powdered wigs.

Surrounded by a quaint garden scene, which could’ve been plucked from Game of Thrones, the regal Agis takes the stage, portrayed by Jake Delaney, who appeared in the national and international tours of The Addams Family, Fiddler On The Roof and ‘S Wonderful. Flanked by his aunt Hesione and uncle Hermocrates, the three sing “This Day of Days,” which explains Agis is the Prince of Sparta. Hesione is played by Joy Franz, who starred in Broadway’s Les Liaisons Dangereuse and Into the Woods, while Hermocrates is Carl Wallnau, who shined last season in BRT’s Witness for the Prosecution.

After years of education and training, Agis is ready to reclaim his rightful throne from the (supposedly) evil Princess Leonide. Before the audience meets the princess, they’re left to imagine the worst. Turns out, she’s harmless, despite her borderline creepy obsession with Agis, whom she never met. Leonide is played by Alex Keiper, who most recently starred in The Humans and Poof at Walnut Street Theatre.

“I would cut off my hair!” she belts out during the love proclamation, “Anything.”

In true fangirl fashion, she and her confidante Corine, played by Rebecca Robbins (Annie, Souvenir), devise a plan to infiltrate Agis’ castle by posing as young men seeking instruction from the renowned philosopher Hermocrates.

But first, they must pass through the resident clown Harlequin and gardener Dimas. Despite not being the main stars, this dynamic duo of Adam Hoyak (BRT’s Ragtime) and Danny Rutigliano (Max Bialystock in BRT’s The Producers) steal the show. Both provide necessary comedic relief and catchy numbers like “Henchmen Are Forgotten,” with Hoyak boasting arguably the strongest voice in the cast.

Once the girls/guys earn the trust of Harlequin and Dimas, who both take a particular liking to Corine, things get a little hairy. Leonide’s male alter ego befriends Agis, with the two plotting her own assasination. Embodying a second male persona, she accidentally causes old aunt Hesione to fall in love with her, an emotion the uptight woman hasn’t felt in decades. Of course, Hermocrates unwittingly gets into the confusing mix as he becomes attracted to Leonide’s flirty, high-pitched female character.

Each relationship is hilariously disturbing in its own unique way, and Keiper does a fantastic job at portraying every one. During the song “The Sad and Sordid Saga Ballad of Cecile,” Keiper absolutely shines as she tells a fast-paced, ridiculous tale of yet another personality that suffered a kidnapping, fires and robbers. With Keiper’s powerful voice and pop-up appearances by Corine, Harlequin and Dimas who help Leonide with her tall tale, this is one of the show’s standout numbers.

Throughout the rest of Triumph of Love, more confusion, betrayals and misunderstandings abound as Leonide sinks deeper and deeper into her lies. Does her deception earn Agis’ heart or is she forced to assassinate herself? We won’t spoil the ending, but can say everyone finds happiness in love, and the prospect of love, in the end.

Triumph of Love runs through Sunday, May 20, at Bristol Riverside Theatre, 680 Radcliffe St. Performances include Wednesday, May 16, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Thursday, May 17, at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, May 18, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, May 19, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, May 20, at 3 p.m. Tickets start at $45, with discounts for students, groups and military personnel. Tickets are available by visiting brtstage.org or calling the box office at 215–785–0100. ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com