Review: The Game of Love and Chance (Canadian Stage and Centaur Theatre)

The Game of Love and Chance at Bluma Appel

The Game of Love and Chance by Toronto’s Canadian Stage is still funny and relatable 300 years after it was written

The Canadian Stage production of The Game of Love and Chance is a delight from start to finish. It was funny, fast paced and physical. The play was written 300 years ago by Marivaux in French for an Italian troupe of actors known for their clown-like physical style of performing.

The key to making something written 300 years ago in French work is the translation. The words need to flow in a way that please us and sound familiar. Nicolas Billon has done a masterful job translating and adapting the piece. The language is accessible enough to sound familiar but still theatrical enough that we know the piece has a long history.

Personally I don’t look to a farce for life lessons, but the themes of love and marriage are timeless as are – unfortunately – the divisions of class, so I suppose one could.

The Game of Love and Chance is the story of Silvia whose father has arranged her engagement to Dorante without her knowledge. She agrees to meet him but only if she changes places with her maid Lisette so that she can observe Dorante without him knowing. What she doesn’t know is that Dorante has had the same idea and has changed places with his valet.

We know from the very beginning that Silvia and Dorante will fall in love with each other and that all will end well. We’ve seen it a hundred times before. Because the story holds no surprises the characters have to grab us and hold us. The piece is only 90 minutes long so they don’t have a lot of time to make the connection.

Last night that connection was immediate. The energy on the stage and in the audience was terrific. The cast was terrific. Gil Garratt as the valet can do things with his body that are amazing. I kept expecting him to fall and hurt himself, or someone else. (An aside – In the program the valet character is called Arlequino but on stage he was called Bourguignon. I must have missed something or am much deafer than I want to admit.)

Gemma James-Smith as Lisette, the maid, also gave a very physical performance although not as gymnastic as Garratt’s. Zach Fraser played Mario, Silvia’s languid foppish brother to perfection. Trish Lindstom as Silvia and Harry Judge as Dorante were perfect as aristocrats acting as servants and William Webster as Monsieur Orgon was perfect as Silvia’s father, in on the secret and meddling a bit to encourage Silvia and Dorante.

Matthew Jocelyn directed and managed to find absolutely the right balance. It’s very theatrical in the sense that you always know that you’re in the theatre watching a play. The actors act. It’s almost over the top but not quite. The physicality adds to the performances without becoming the focus.My friend Pat commented that the performances verges on pantomime, that the mannerisms were larger than life. We both really enjoyed the almost over the top performances.

One of the things we both noticed was how many young people there were in the audience. In both of our experiences Canstage audiences are usually older. It was great to see and to see that they enjoyed themselves.

All in all a fun evening. Definitely worth seeing The Game of Love and Chance.


The Game of Love and Chance is playing at the Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front Street East) until May 12th
– Performances are at 8 pm with Wednesday matinees at 1.30 and Saturday matinees at 2 pm
– Ticket prices range from @20.84 to $99.00. PWYC on MOnday, half price rush seats when available, $12.50 for under 30s.
– Tickets are available online, by phone at 416.368.3110 or in person at the box office

Picture of Gil Garratt and Gemma James-Smith by