THE TRIUMPH OF LOVE by Pierre Marivaux, translated and directed by John Van Burek, with Philippa Domville, Paul Fauteux, Allan Hawco, Ross Manson, Amy Price-Francis, Michael Spencer-Davis and Helen Taylor. Presented by Pleiades Theatre at Artword (75 Portland). Previews begin Friday (May 4), opens Tuesday (May 8) and runs to May 27, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Saturday 4 pm and Sunday 2:30 pm. $24-$29, Sunday pwyc, previews $10. 416-408-2783.
philippa domville's gone from sexpot to celibate overnight. Domville just finished performing in James O'Reilly's Time After Time, playing all the turned-on women in jazz musician Chet Baker's life. She's back as Leontine, half of a pair of chaste philosophical siblings, in Marivaux's 1732 French classic, The Triumph Of Love.
Domville laughs when I mention the range of strong women that she flashed audiences in O'Reilly's script.
"I grew up with a bunch of broads, a real matriarchy. All the women were powerful and larger than life, each gorgeous, sexy and ridiculous in her own way. Ruth was like that, extreme and eccentric."
We're talking outside on a nippy April day as gardeners prepare flower beds around the U of T space where Domville and others are rehearsing the Marivaux, an English-language Canadian premiere. The atmosphere suggests Domville's character Leontine, a chilly spinster who's warmed to springtime love by the deceptions of a young woman in male disguise.
"She's a woman who's chosen celibacy and seeks refuge from the outside world in the life of reason. Marivaux has cleverly made her 35, not 25, in a culture where she has only one last chance not to be an old maid.
"But behind her actions Leontine is aware of self-esteem and autonomy. When you don't search for romantic love, you free yourself. That's as true and subversive today, in a culture where sex fuels consumer capitalism, as it was in Marivaux's time."
Domville's had six hot artistic months after a slack period. Like many artists, she needs a sideline "bag of tricks" -- teaching ESL and Pilates. She performed in Stravinsky's Pulcinella with the TSO, acted in the indie film It All Happens Incredibly Fast, did Time After Time and got cast in the Marivaux while workshopping her own script The Selkie Project.
It's the third in a trilogy about mermaids. The first was workshopped at Shaw, but Toronto audiences saw the second, Marilyn The Mermaid, at the Fringe.
Domville wrote and starred in the piece, which examines the longing for love shared by Marilyn Monroe and The Little Mermaid.
The Selkie Project is set during the first world war. Domville envisions this most plot-heavy of her works as a "a six-hour ensemble Lepage epic" influenced by The Singing Detective and Pat Barker's war novels, with touches of vaudeville, dadaism, burlesque and magic realism.
"My work blends the conscious and unconscious. My time at Shaw proved to me that viewers are sophisticated enough to be drawn to the combination. Audiences listen to arguments and are passionate about ideas.
"Writing's an outlet for my curiosity, but it's hard," she suddenly wails, "and acting's fun. I've been lucky in the scale and variety of parts I've played -- including a sexually ambiguous Oswald in King Lear and a closeted phone therapist in Gravity Calling -- and I love the transformations that acting allows me.
"Some people think of acting as exploring their inner selves or expurgating some past trauma. What draws me to performing is being able to fully inhabit someone else emotionally or psychologically. It's a deep and joyful experience."