Mary Ellen Lamb (Southern Illinios University) This film of Love’s Victory is a coup de theatre. Restoring the play to the place where it was originally performed, and to something like the way it was performed, this performance showcases the vitality of early modern household drama, for which we have so few examples. Amateur singing was more of an expected part of ordinary life than today, and song was a crucial aspect of this experience, moving and heightening specific moments. The music was sensational, and the actors were well up to the task, even in some instances singing a capella. The filming itself was highly professional, zooming in for intimate close-ups of the actors’ speeches as well as occasional shots to responses of onlookers. The actors were superb. I especially liked Cal Chapman as Philisses, who could convey so many emotions in these close-ups. The costuming was especially well-done, with bright colors that contributed visual vivacity to the scenes. The decision to cast Cupid as the malicious Arcas was a bold move that darkened Cupid’s character and by inference interestingly complicated the happy ending of the play.
Some specific moments that come to mind. One was near the beginning of the play, when Silvestra actually sits down at one of the tables and confides her otherwise-soliloquy to the audience members there. This audience engagement is in line with household drama, played by members of a family with their friends and retainers. Rustic’s comically crude delivery of his song in Act One with his rendition of the “paps … like apples round” deserved the laugh it got from the audience. The scene near the end of the play when Musella is poised to stab a willing Philisses avoids high hysteria without losing intensity. It is bone-chilling.
Plays are meant to be seen rather than only read, and seeing Love’s Victory enacted in performance is crucial to the experience of the play. Now authorized for public release, this film deserves to gain many appreciative viewers now and in years to come.
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