Thursday, November 3, 2016

Broadway Theater Review: Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Les Liaisons Dangereuses
By Christopher Hampton
Directed by Josie Rourke
Donmar Warehouse production
Booth Theatre
through Jan. 22

By Lauren Yarger
The Donmar Warehouse production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses takes the quote "revenge is a dish best served cold" quite literally, as any spark of heat or passion in this Broadway transfer seems to be missing.

Based on an 18th-century novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, it's a tale of seduction and revenge (in a book by Christopher Hampton, who wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay adaptation. The Marquise de Merteuil (Janet McTeer) plots revenge on a former lover who jilted her by targeting his pure and convent-educated intended, Cecile de Volanges (Elena Kampouris). She enlists another former lover, Vicomte de Valmont (Liev Schreiber), to use some of his well-known seduction power on the girl and ruin her before the wedding night. Valmont has his own conquest in mind, however, the virtuous and happily married Madame de Tourvel (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen).

The couple pretend to help Cecile and her shy beau and music instructor Le Chevalier Danceny (Raffi Barsoumian), but it's really a game of betrayal that ensnares everyone in their circle, including Valmont's aunt, Madame de Rosemonde (Mary Beth Peil) and Cecile's mother, Madame de Volanges (Ora Jones). 

"Love is something you use," the marquise says. "Not something you fall into." 

McTeer holds our interest as the deceiptful woman who is her own worst enemy and Kampouris is convincing as the virginal, yet sexually curious Cecile. Not much else compells us to remain engaged with the action, however.

This production from London's Donmar Warehouse is directed by its Artistic Director Josie Rourke, who fails to ignite chemistry between any of the characters, particularly between McTeer and Schreiber. While I am not advocating for pornography on the stage, most of the sexual encounters seem stiff and passionless. Schreiber spends a lot of time putting his hand up the pretty. voluminous skirts designed by Tom Scutt), but doesn't convince us that would be an overly welcome act. 

Meanwhile, the sets, also designed by Scutt, are puzzling. There is a drawing room with high ceilings, numerous crystal chandeliers (lighting design by Mark Henderson) and large family portraits -- but the pictures are askew, strewn about the room, or missing from their frames. The plaster of the walls is cracked and the edges of the room seem frayed. Is this to depict the decaying souls of the persons who live within the walls? Perhaps, but it mostly makes us wonder how people so wealthy could let the house go to pot like that, especially since they have servants. Rounding out the cast are Katrina Cunningham as Émilie, Josh Salt as Azolan, Joy Franz as Victoire, David Patterson as Major-domo, Laura Sudduth as Julie.

Scene changes are made with some classical music with vocals (Michael Bruce composes and supervises the music and sound design is by Carolyn Downing), but everything has a mechanical feel -- even a duel with swords (Lorin Latarro, directs movement) -- and the two hours and 45 minutes feel very long and unsatisfying for a play that's supposed to be all about passion and fulfillment....

Les Liaisons Dangereuses plays a limited engagement through Jan. 22 at the Booth Theatre, 222 West 45th St., NYC. Performances are Monday and Thursday at 7 pm; Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Wednesday and Saturday at 2 pm; Sundat at 3 pm. Tickets are $42- $159: liaisonsbroadway.com/212-239-6200.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FACTORS:
-- Language
-- Sexual Activity
-- Nudity

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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