It may have been years since Ottawa queers have caught a glimpse of a genuine dandy in a local park. That is about to change, as Odyssey Theatre is staging French playwright Marivaux’s The Game of Love and Chance at Strathcona Park July 26 to Aug 26.
First performed in 1730, this romantic comedy has been updated by director Andy Massingham and explores such hot-button themes as sexual head games, independent women and arranged marriage.
Actor Zachary Counsil plays Mario, a dandy-trickster character, and while Mario’s sexuality is implied only, Counsil says Marivaux’s themes will appeal to gay and lesbian audiences.
“The idea of games with your lover is as old as the hills,” Counsil says. “When you’re trying to pick someone up at a bar and you engage in conversation, there’s a little bit of a tennis match that goes on, seeing if you can play the game and impress your would-be lover. These themes are appealing to most audiences.”
The Game of Love and Chance marks Massingham’s directorial debut although audiences may not notice this fact. A notable actor in Ottawa’s theatre scene for the past five years, Massingham netted three Best Actor nominations at last year’s Rideau Awards. His extensive background as an performer has prepared him for the director’s chair, and he says each production is like assembling a family unit.
“The great fun of directing is putting together the family,” he says. “It’s like putting together a band you’re going on the road with. You want to make sure everybody’s a soloist but they all work together. A lot of the joy of it has been watching this company invent the show. Then I just sort of let it go to them, they direct themselves, and it’s kind of beautiful.”
The production promises to appeal to women as the two central female characters essentially dictate the plot.
“A lot of the characters in the play are very sexually driven,” Massingham says. “The female protagonist is strong and independent. She’s truly modern. This would appeal to the female psyche and sensibility. When there’s a strong female protagonist, the men are always catching up to them.”
While the script may be saucy and cringe-inducing, Massingham promises that the adult themes are handled subtly enough that children are still welcome to attend.
“It deals with adult issues but in a really family-friendly way.”
On the evening of Aug 9, however, you may want to refrain from bringing along your kids. Syndicated talk-show host and clinical therapist Sue McGarvie will host a “talk-back” event, catering to Ottawa singles seeking love connections.
Before the actors take to the stage, McGarvie will engage the audience in an ice-breaker activity and request participants write down an example of a great date along with their name and email. Then McGarvie will select two potential lovebirds to be set up on a blind date.
“The play is about chance, and I want to talk to the audience about stepping out of their comfort zone and taking chances for love,” she says.
“My plan during the talk-back is to offer up the psychology of connecting and new insights into the ways individuals from the nation’s capital hook up. I’m going to use the play as examples.”
Other themed talk-back nights will include The Music of Moulin Rouge, Aug 16, where a music expert will discuss the work of Offenbach, one of the inspirations behind The Game of Love and Chance. On Aug 23, audience members will be dancing in the aisles when choreographer Courtney Bamford gives theatregoers a cancan lesson.
“It’s a great way to spend an evening in the park and watch some magic happen,” Counsil says. “A theatre is very controlled; this is very open and magical.”
Andy Massingham talks about The Game of Love and Chance