Classic ‘Camille’ well acted but boring
IF YOU GO
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and
Saturday, and June 17 and 18;
and 2 p.m. Sunday and June 19
Where: Victorian Players Theater, 702 Mahoning Ave., Youngstown
Tickets: $10 ($8 for seniors and students); call 330-746-5455
By Lorraine Spencer
It seems we never tire of tragic love stories. While the entertainment industry strives to come up with new twists on old tales, we can also turn to the classics for a good cry. “Camille,” the latest production at the Victorian Players, is one of those classic love stories: one of mismatched lovers, betrayal and redemption, and of course, tragedy.
“Camille” was originally a novel by Alexandre Dumas, fils, not to be confused with his father, Alexandre Dumas, writer of “The Three Musketeers.” Dumas, fils adapted his novel into a stage play in 1848. That script has been translated by director Dr. Thomas Copeland for the current Victorian Player’s production.
The plot is a familiar one. Marguerite Gautier, nicknamed Camille, is essentially a high-class call girl. She is also ill, apparently with consumption, though it is never actually explained in the play. She meets a young man, Armand, who has fallen in love with her. Eventually, she returns his affection, and they plan to live happily, if poorly, ever after. But his family does not approve of her past and Marguerite must decide between her own happiness and Armand’s future.
Copeland’s translation is easy to understand and follow. The dialogue is modern and informal enough to sound natural and fresh. On the other hand, though, Copeland is clearly proud of his “complete translation,” some generous editing would have been beneficial. At a full three hours, the play became tedious. Much of the dialogue was repetitive or unnecessary and could have been trimmed to a more comfortable length.
Oddly, for a love story, there’s not much love actually seen onstage. The characters refer to their infatuation for each other without really expressing it. Most of the dialogue seemed very passive, with little action. Perhaps that was the style 150 years ago, but it made for a rather boring production.
Despite the dry script, the play was very well-acted. Carol Weakland is an experienced actress with impeccable stage presence. Her Marguerite was smooth and reserved, gliding around the stage with grace. Ryan Clausen provided a perfect partner for Weakland’s character. He was sweet and innocent as the smitten Armand, impressive in his first dramatic role.
The pairing of Clausen and Weakland as young lovers felt slightly false, however. The age difference between the two actors was apparent and made the coupling seem unnatural. Though Marguerite’s age is never stated in the dialogue, she is often referred to as “young.” Even as she bemoaned the tragedy of dying so young, Weakland played Marguerite more like a world-weary matron than an ing nue. In contrast, Clausen’s portrayal of Armand with passion and earnest naivety was much more believable.
Theater veteran Tom O’Donnell was a delightful gentleman, Gatson Rieux. Vic regular Caitlin Sacui was appropriately selfish and snobbish as Marguerite’s friend Prudence. Gary Deckant’s pompous Baron de Varville added some humor and strife, and Jim Cannaci’s Count de Giray was smooth and dapper in an unfortunately small role.