“They came in a whirl of wanton words,
Those feckless and false young men.
They tore at my heart like hungry birds
and never came back again.
Serenity. Serenity. I never knew any then.”
Princess Leonide was a ruthless figure in 1732. The playwright, Pierre Marivaux, liked to tweak the commedia conventions. He’d place his lovers in farcial situations only to break their hearts. The 1997 musical softened Leonide with a song of remorse, and upstaged her by casting Betty Buckley as Hesione. Leonide’s seduction of the prince and his uncle were played for broad comedy while Hesione got songs of awakening love, self-discovery and heartbreak. Critics praised Buckley, panned the show, and left it to college campuses. A film in 2001 awakened some regional interest in the play but the story remains an acquired taste.