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Les Liaisons Dangereuses

a Drama
CATEGORY : DRAMA
by Christopher Hampton

COMPANY : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
ID# 4626

SHOWING : September 06, 2014 - October 05, 2014

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Two rivals and ex-lovers play a dangerous game of sexual conquest in pre-revolution France. The intrigue mounts as they trample innocent hearts in their wake. Based on the scandalous 1782 novel and later adapted into an Oscar-winning film, "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" is a stunning slow burn of carnal scheming. Launching the season at Actor’s Express, this modern classic scorches the stage in a daring new production from the director of "Pluto" and "Wolves" and the fashion forward avant-garde costume designer of "Spring Awakening" and "Rocky Horror Show."

Audience Advisory: "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" features brief partial nudity.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Melissa Foulger
Cecile Volanges Kristin Butler
Mme. de Rosemonde Diane Dicker
Le Chevalier Danceny Barrett Doyle
Le Vicomte de Valmont Paul Hester
La Marquise de Merteuil Park Krausen
Azolan Edward McCreary
Emilie Tiffany Mitchenor
La Presidente de Tourvel Jennifer Schottstaedt
Mme. de Volanges Kathleen Wattis
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REVIEWS

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Slouching towards Versailles
by playgoer
Thursday, September 11, 2014
3.0
The production of "Les Liaisons Dangereuse" being presented by Actor’s Express under the direction of Melissa Foulger can’t decide if it’s a period piece or a modern piece. The furniture, music, and costumes suggest the 1780s, but the posture and dialogue delivery of most actors suggest a modern piece. Consequently, the production suffers.

None of the design elements completely work. Mary Parker’s lighting has a nice cross-hatched effect on the back curtain in the second act, but the lines of light and shadow seem to flicker across the faces of the actors throughout the show as they move, with only a few pockets of consistent illumination that are rarely used for more than seconds at a time.

Kristin Von Hinezmeyer’s sound design is even worse. I heard from two people in two distinctly different sections of the auditorium that they had difficulty understanding the dialogue. In one case, it was because of the volume of the music; in the other, it was probably a combination of insufficient vocal projection and the wordiness of the script. The scene-changing music I found to be numbingly repetitive in a repulsive mixture of massed strings and modern underscoring. It made a long evening seem even longer.

Erik Teague’s costumes are sumptuous, but they aren’t carried well by the men, and the women’s costumes have short skirts for all the "fallen" women and for the women who will "fall" during the course of the play. Besides the short skirts looking unbalanced, they foreshadow too much of what will happen in the play. The topless costume for Tiffany Mitchenor as the whore Emilie is a gratuitous touch, and provides her with the only instance of multiple costumes for the same character, throwing off the balance of the costume plot.

Shannon Robert’s scenic design works in general, but the gauzy white curtains on the long back side of the set have inelegant gaps when drawn back and forth, which happens all too often during the play. Ms. Foulger has directed the scene changes with a choreographic flair, but the constant rearrangement of the same pieces of furniture eventually becomes tedious. At least Melisa DuBois’ props are few and appropriate. Sightlines are often problematic, with the blocking often putting the backs of actors to a certain side of the audience for extended periods.

What the production desperately needed (but apparently did not have) was a movement coach. Paul Hester slouches throughout his entire performance, making his costume look like a sack. The other men seem to try more to present an elegant, period look, but they appear to have been left to their own devices. Jennifer Schottstaedt, as de Tourvel, shakes her head much too frequently and has too modern a feel for the dialogue, and so seems out of place in the overall proceedings.

The only cast members who impress with their movements are Diane Dicker and Kathleen Wattis, who wear traditional 1780s costumes, and the marvelous Park Krausen. Ms. Krausen has been costumed with a hemline reminiscent of a Wild West saloon gal and has been directed to sit on the arms of chairs and to straddle the back of a lounging sofa, but she manages to make the blocking look like that of a 1780s lady who has consciously chosen to be unladylike in her private moments. Ms. Krausen is a marvel in the role of La Marquise to Merteuil, and she is the only valid reason to see the show.

Aside from the unpleasant mixture of period and modern acting styles, the acting is generally good. Lines land as they should. Expressions are good. If only director Melissa Foulger had brought a consistent sensibility to the production that allowed the audience to submerge themselves in a consistent 1780s world, this show could have been a blockbuster.
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