Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

American Players Theater, “Les Liaisons Dangereuses”

On Saturday, November 9th, we drove over to Spring Green to see APT’s production of “Les Liaisons Dangereuses,” adapted for the stage by award-winner Christopher Hampton from the scandalous 1782 novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. The novel was outrageous in its time, not only for its sexual content, but for its savage indictment of the lifestyles of France’s idle rich. Some critics credited it for adding fuel to the gathering fires that would break out into revolution.

We are both fans of the film, “Dangerous Liaisons,” adapted from Hampton’s play, and wanted to see what APT would do with it. (Georgie has plowed through the translation of the dense novel. I have not.) We were not disappointed.

The characterizations rendered by Tracy Michelle Arnold, as the Marquis de Merteuil, and James DeVita, as the Vicomte de Valmont, are quite different than the film characters as portrayed by Glenn Close and John Malkovich, but no less compelling. As the Marquise, Arnold makes good use of her expressive face, silently commenting on the action and letting us know that she is not only in on the jokes, but (she thinks) is in full command of the situation. DeVita’s Valmont is warmer and more naturally charming, but also more vulnerable. The combination is emotionally searing when they strike sparks from one another.

They are well supported by Melisa Pereya as Cécile Volange, the innocent Mertuil sics Valmont onto, and Luara Rook as Madame de Tourvel, the object of Valmont’s obscure desire. It is a measure of the depravity of high society at the time of the play that, when describing his plans toward her, the acts of an utter cad, Valmont says of seducing a woman “famous for her strict morals, religious fervor and the happiness of her marriage”—“What could be more prestigious?”

Sarah Day, who would have made a formidable Marquise when younger, plays Valmont’s loving but clear-eyed aunt with feeling that makes her well-meant but pessimistic advice to de Tourvel all the more bitter; “Do you still think men love the way we do? No... men enjoy the happiness they feel. We can only enjoy the happiness we give. They are not capable of devoting themselves exclusively to one person. So to hope to be made happy by love is a certain cause of grief.”

The play was beautifully but simply set, with a glistening marble-patterned floor that threw back the colors of the lights, a few pieces of period furniture, rearranged for different scenes, and handsome costumes by Rachel Anne Healy. Mertuil and Valmont are clothe in shades of gray, hers an ominous steely shade, his lighter. The Marquise’s bodice has a textured pattern that suggests an armor breastplate. Cécile wears a light petal pink, and Madame de Tourvel, although she is a married woman, is in virginal white.

The play’s ending is rather different than that of the film, but equally powerful in different ways. We were extremely glad to have seen this outstanding production, and would recommend it highly. The play continues through November 24th at APT’s Touchstone Theatre (the indoor facility—very nice and intimate--), with tickets available for upcoming shows.

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Tags: american players, theatre

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