The La Jolla Playhouse
Sunday, July 29, 2007

The world of Mariveaux’s The Deception is a colorful one, yet the color – as all things in this play – can be deceiving. The towering glass walls that surround the stage and the sliding one that cuts through it are painted with soothing shades of blues and greens, reminiscent of a sunny outdoor day. The colors evoke trees and skies and calm water, yet the glass creates an interior shell, a suffocating fragile box, one that can be shattered at any moment.

Mariveaux’s characters inhabit this precarious world, hidden to the audience at times by brushes of color on the glass, almost always hidden to each other through layers of false identities and ulterior motives. They lie for various reasons – for money, for love, to gain trust, to expose truth – yet whether justified or not, the web of deception spreads quickly, trapping those in it’s path.

The chevalier is not a servant boy, but rather the disguised wealthy Parisian lady soon to be married to a scheming young man. She befriends him and gains his trust at the country estate of the Contessa, with whom he is also engaged for the sake of her fortune. The attempts to uncover these deceptions are made by creating new ones and a cycle of lies, half-truths, and misrepresentations grows.

In this cycle of fraud, the character of the Fool provides an oasis of truth and honesty. In his simplicity, he cannot remember to whom he has sworn loyalty; in his stupidity, he cannot recall which secrets he has agreed to shield. In his innocence, he cannot comprehend the difference between what he discovers to be truth and what he is told is such. Time after time, he reveals that which was not meant to be revealed and unknowingly foils the plans of his masters.

In doing so, Mariveaux makes clear that he who speaks the truth holds the power. Deception can only thrive where all involved support its existence and accept its mission. The one who refuses to partake in its nurturing can single-handedly render it ineffective.