JACQUES: I’ve always loved you!
IRENE: That’s not my fault.
—Edouard Bordet, THE CAPTIVE.
Philadelphia Artists Collective’s productions have been among the highlights of last few Fringe Festivals. They consistently adapt lesser-known classic gems into engaging, contemporarily relevant pieces. In Edouard Bordet’s THE CAPTIVE, young society lady Irene (Rachel Brodeur) convinces her lifelong friend Jacques (Chase Byrd) to fake an engagement so she can remain in Paris when her emotionally distant father (John Lopes) takes a foreign post. Although it has lost the shock value (lesbianism!) it had upon its 1920s premiere, it is easy to see why director Dan Hodge and company were attracted to this forgotten play: Jacques is in love with Irene. Irene loves Jacques but she cannot be in love with him. Francoise (Felicia Leicht) loves the unavailable Jacques. This story will always be familiar.
It is perhaps more familiar than the actors realize. The production takes place in the stately rooms of colonial Physick House in Society Hill. The period paintings and furnishings are tasteful, elegant, and admirable. But despite showing artistic beauty and enduring humanity, they are leftovers from a lost world. Likewise, Hodge and his cast present THE CAPTIVE with affected formal mannerisms, creating unnecessary emotional distance within the intimate space. The story captivates, and the actors overcome the formality in moments of gripping pathos (Byrd and Brodeur have some engrossing spar sessions; Alex Boyle delights as Irene’s bubbling younger sister), but THE CAPTIVE never rises above a pleasant period piece. [Physick House, 321 S. 4th Street] September 1-20, 2015; fringearts.com/the-captive.