Changes of Heart, Janus Theatre, at North School Park amphitheater. This 1723 Marivaux comedy offers a test of devotion in the face of adversity and temptation. Silvia, true love of Harlequin, is kidnapped by the Prince, who uses a network of clever servants and relatives to try to trick the young maiden into falling for him. Stephen Wadsworth’s translation combines modern vernacular with classic “marivaudage” (a term coined in homage to the playwright’s subtle, elegant use of language to convey complex emotions), offering lines like “What you now propose is tempting, for I am…a pig. But still, I crave love even more than I crave food.”
Sean Hargadon’s staging maximizes the space, a miniature outdoor amphitheater, creating a palace courtyard with a simple wrought-iron table and chairs, a concrete bench, and two columns; the actors stroll offstage on brick pathways or slide onstage down bannisters. Though poor acoustics meant that some lines wafted into the trees while others were drowned out by passing ice cream trucks, the actors filled the space with big (though not overblown) performances, especially Michael Henry as Harlequin and Kaitie Mayberry as Lisette, the coquette sent to separate the lovers, who prowls and pouts like an 18th-century Christina Aguilera. Now, if Henry and Laura Shatkus as Silvia could get us to believe for two minutes that they were actually in love, the play would go from entertaining and pretty to the deep emotional intrigue for which Marivaux is famous.