By Manning Harris

Théatre du Rêve offers delightful, tangible proof that we Atlantans really do live in an international city.  The French-speaking theatre troupe is presenting “Lovers and Lunatics: 3 Farces de Feydeau,” running at 7 Stages Backstage Theatre through February 17.  Georges Feydeau, French playwright, one of the creators of modern farce, wrote these short plays in the 1880’s.

Don’t despair if you don’t speak French; instead, rejoice, because director William Hatten and Ama Bollinger have translated and adapted all three plays.  Hence, we get to see the first two plays, “Puppy Love” and “By the Window,” performed first in English, then in French; and the last play, “Game of Chance,” performed in both French and English.

All of the plays are performed with great energy and almost manic, slightly absurdist flair.  “Puppy Love” is performed by four talented children:  Nadia Crawlle and Thomas Shoup do the honors in English; Flora McGirt and Victor Magaud (both of whom are bi-lingual—I’m so envious!) perform in flawless French.  I took French for three years in high school and two years in college and spent a summer in France 1,000 years ago.  I’m not fluent, but I recognize the real thing (French) when I hear it.  For some reason I understood young Mr. Magaud and Ms. McGirt better than the adults; maybe they were going a tad slower; at any rate, they were charming.

I reiterate:  You do not have to speak French at all to enjoy these plays.  “By the Window” is a sex farce with French maids and window spying and all sorts of fun stuff.  Atlanta actors Bryan Brendle and Cara Mantella, performing in English, are excellent.  Mr. Brendle has a voice like a trumpet; he could be heard in Radio City Music Hall.  It’s nice to see him doing light comedy; I’ve seen him several times in vaguely menacing roles.  Ms. Mantella is both seductive and very funny.

Eliana Marianes and Christof Veillon perform the play in French.  Mr. Veillon is a native Frenchman with an impressive résumé and speaks so fast that it’s frightening—but also funny.  Ms. Marianes is talented and lovely.

“Game of Chance” is a melodramatic farce featuring Mr. Brendle, Ariel Fristoe, Mr. Veillon, the legendary Chris Kayser, and Ms. Marianes.  This is the final play of the evening, performed in English and French simultaneously.  The plot is, well, farcical.  Hang on for the ride.

Park Krausen, the theatre’s Artistic Director, is also a fine actress.  She doesn’t perform this time, but she’s helped put together an effervescent evening.  The show is a personal triumph for Mr. Hatten, who  directed, translated, and adapted the Feydeau plays.

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Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.