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Play for love: L'Avant-Scène's third program of the year

On March 3 and 5, Art on Hulfish invited its visitors to French theater soirées revolving around the timely theme of love.

The talented actors of L’Avant-Scène, the French theater troupe directed by Professor Florent Masse, performed two plays, “La Seconde Surprise de l’amour” by Pierre de Marivaux and “Les Caprices de Marianne” by Alfred de Musset. The performance, consisting of both plays, lasted for two and a half hours. This was the third program organized by L’Avant-Scene this year in addition to Seuls en Scène, the global francophone theater festival that brought actors and directors from all over the world together. 

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The show at Art on Hulfish followed the troupe’s last performance of “Cyrano de Bergerac” in the Chancellor Green Rotunda. The audience once again gathered closely around the stage. The first part of the production was “La Seconde Surprise de l’amour,” a rom-com from 1728. This play revolved around a marquise, who is appropriately named La Marquise (Sandra Chen ’24). Following her husband’s death, two of his friends, a count and a chevalier, pursue her. It was speculated that the count (James Hamilton ’26) wanted to marry the Marquise, a union she could not fathom. The entrance of the dramatic and capricious Chevalier, played by Clément Génibrèdes GS, sent a wave of laughter down the crowd, culminating in a sense of deep connection between the audience and the actors. Throughout the play, this push and pull between the audience and the actors were just as important as the intricate lines that were recited.

The dialogues of the Marquise with Lisette, played by Hannah Grunow GS, brought dynamism to the play with her lively depiction of the character. The audience was also introduced to Hortensius (Lana Gaige ’24), a show-off intellectual who complemented Lisette’s dynamism and amplified the play’s comedic element. Love also manifested itself for Lisette in flirty dialogues with Chevalier’s valet, Lubin (Eloi Delort ’24). But they were not the only characters to experience love — Chevalier’s heartbreak over his mistress’ infidelity and the Marquise’s mourning was replaced by friendly feelings that emerged between the two characters. By the end of the play, these emotions had transformed into tender love. This second surprise of love, as the name of the play suggests, took over the characters and imbued the audience with a sense of tranquility. 

The second play “Les Caprices de Marianne” started right after the first one, creating a sense of continuity within the theme of love. The first scene was a glimpse into the heavy heartache of Coelio (Clément Herman GS), caused by his unrequited love for Marianne (Morgan Teman ’23). Married to her beloved husband Claudio (James Hamilton ’26), Marianne does not take interest in Coelio; yet shockingly, she starts liking Octave (Gavin Laplace ’23), the cousin of her husband. Coelio, his soul as somber as his all-black attire, eventually gets tangled up in Claudio’s jealousy, who teams up with Tibia  (Gil Joseph ’25) to assassinate Coelio. Darker than the first play, “Les Caprices de Marianne” explores the depths of human emotion and the pain it can cause. At the end of the play, we see Octave and Marianne with Coelio’s ashes, repenting their wrongdoings and reflecting on their choices.

As the marathon of plays came to an end, the somber scene gave way to a clatter of applause and laughter. The actors started running around the wall that separates the exhibition area from the open stage. The ambiance of the space and the sense of community engulfed everyone as the audience and the actors thanked each other for their mutual love for theater. 

Ayse Basak Ersoy is a contributing writer for The Prospect at the ‘Prince.’ She can be reached at abersoy@princeton.edu.

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