The Ira Brind School of Theater Arts at the University of the Arts on Broad Street is transformed for the next few days into a decadent rococo society in their latest production, LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES. Originally an epistolary novel by Choderlos de Laclos told over four volumes, it was converted into a play by Christopher Hampton, and later into several different movie versions, most recently in 1988 (Dangerous Liaisons) starring Glenn Close and John Malkovich. It is the story of two rivals (and ex-lovers), the Marquise de Merteuil (Amanda Kearns) and the Vicomte de Valmont (Will Thompson), who use sex as a weapon to exact revenge on those they perceive has wronged them. The intricate machinations are the body of the play, as Valmont seduces Madame de Tourvel (Tess Kunik) and young Cecile Volanges (Susanne Collins), while the Marquise secuced Le Chevalier Denceny (Andrew J. Carroll.)
Directed by Amy Dugas Brown, the production sparkles with style, as the actors settle very nicely into 18th century society. Ms. Kearns is wonderful as the Marquise, her haughty manner dripping with sarcasm and evil. Mr. Thompson as Valmont is sly, yet carries himself proudly, his body language perfect throughout. Ms. Kunik as Mme. De Tourvel does a wonderful job as the conflicted object of Valmont’s passions, and Ms. Collins is sweet innocence corrupted. They are joined by Amy-Helene Carlson, Ben Harter-Murphy, Sarah Spangenberg, Mary Beth Shrader, Liam Phillips, and RJ Pavel. The entire cast looks very comfortable in this foreign setting, never dropping character or style. Scene change music is performed live by cellist Chanel Karimkhani, which is a beautiful change. Even the stage crew moves stylishly, setting in place for a second before moving briskly and efficiently as they prepare the stage for the next scene.
The problem with many college productions is you have younger actors playing the part of older characters. That exists in this production, but the effect is minimal. The actors are very disciplined in their movements for the most part, rarely betraying their relative youth. The seduction scenes are of particular note. They are handled beautifully, never degenerating into rutting, the style and manner of the decadent society in full bloom.
This is a very worthy production of a very difficult piece. Congratulations to Amy Dugas Brown and the entire cast and crew for a marvelous evening at the theatre. The ticket prices are ridiculously low, and there are precious few performances remaining. Find the time to come to Broad Street and watch the next generation of Philadelphia actors in action.
LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES
Written by Christopher Hampton
Directed by Amy Dugas Brown
thru November 6, 2011
University of the Arts
Brind School of Theatre Arts
Caplan Studio Theater
211 South Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19110
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