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APAC’s ‘Triumph of Love’ showcases musical talents

"Triumph of Love" has had little American stage time since it was written in the 18th century, but through Sunday at the Broccoli Theatre, the Astoria Performing Arts Center is breathing and singing the life back into Pierre de Marivaux's Commedia dell'Arte.

This cross-dressing farce set in ancient Sparta was adapted into a Broadway musical in 1997, with book by James Magruder, lyrics by Susan Birkenhead and music by Jeffrey Stock. Deemed "sophomoric" and "endless-seeming" by The New York Times, the play survived only three months on the stage before descending into obscurity, until now.

In "Triumph of Love," directed by Brian Swasey, Spartan Princess Leonide (Abby Baum) falls in love with Agis (Tripp Pettigrew), her sworn ancestral enemy and a pupil of the renowned, misogynist philosopher Hermocrates (Richard Rice Alan).

In order to win the love of Agis, Princess Leonide appears on the compound of Hermocrates with her servant Corine (Ashley Spiegel) dressed as a man. The decision sets off a series of mistaken identity hijinks, and at some point just about everyone, including Hermocrates' sister Hesione, who believes Leonide is a man, falls in love with Princess Leonide despite themselves.

The APAC version brings fresh talent to the mix, including Baum, a trained singer with seemingly boundless air in her lungs, and Erika Amato, who commands the dignified, if not uptight, role of Hesione with operatic skill.

Though the cast is undoubtedly talented and resilient (they have to be, as the play is 2 hours long) the first act sets an awkward tone due primarily to the material. Advertised as "tongue-in-cheek" and "hilarious," contemporary eyes may be disappointed to see a dated plot overwhelmed by long, syrupy songs. Either a pure rendition of the classic Marivaux text or a thoroughly contemporary parody would be preferable, but "Triumph of Love" lingers somewhere awkwardly in between.

If You Go:

Triumph of Love Astoria Performing Arts Center presents.

When: May 8, 9, 10, @ 8 p.m.; May 11, 6 p.m.

Where: Broccoli Theater, Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens, 21-12 30 Rd. at 21 St., Astoria

Cost: Adults in advance, $15; Adults at the door, $18; Seniors and students, $12; Children under 10, $5

Contact: 212-352-3101 or visit www.apacny.org

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