LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES
By Christopher Hampton
Directed by Tiffany Nichole Greene
Stage Manager – Minika Zimmermann
Sound Design – Jim Kuenzer
Lighting Design – Lisa Miller
Set Design – Inseung Park
Costume Design – Susan Yanofsky
Fight Choreographer – Jeff Colangelo
MME de Volanges – Charlotte Akin
Cecile – Samantha Behen
Emilie – Gloria Benavides
Rosemonde – Gail Cronauer
Tourvel – Lydia Mackay
Merteuil – Cindee Mayfield
Danceny – Jonah Munroe
Valmont – Brandon Potter
Azolan – Sarah Rutan
Major-Domo – Dylan Shelby
Reviewed Performance: 6/18/2018
Reviewed by Richard P. Buswold, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Choderlos de Laclos’ novel of sex, deceit, and depravity was scandalous when it was first published in 1782. Written in the decade before the French Revolution, this tale of sexual conquest and cruel intentions among the aristocracy depicts an elevated level of depravity shared by the idle rich. Hampton's stage adaption, which has been produced on Broadway twice, in 1987 and revived in 2008, won awards for Best Play. Hampton received an Academy Award for the movie adaptation, Dangerous Liaisons.
In the play, former lovers the Marquise de Merteuil, played by Cindee Mayfield with delightful cruelty, and Viscount de Valmont, perfected by Brandon Potter, now challenge each other with seductions and revenge. Merteuil incites Valmont to corrupt the innocent Cécile Volanges, the beautiful Samantha Behen, before her wedding night. Valmont has his eyes on the married and overly virtuous Madame de Tourvel, sweetly portrayed by Lydia MacKay. And intends to charm her out of her pants and subsequently, her firmly adhered-to wedding vows.
You see, Cécile is fresh out of the convent and engaged to a former lover of the Marquise. She's had several. She wants to humiliate this poor stooge by making sure the wife he gets is not the innocent he thinks she is, but rather a used woman with more sexual knowledge than she should have being that she spent her life in a convent. She calls on the licentious Viscount de Valmont, another of her lovers who is very good at wooing women. He declines claiming that it would be too easy. He would rather try to bed the ever-pious Madame de Tourvel. Merteuil proposes a bet of sorts. If he deflowers Cécile and can provide written proof that he is successful with Tourvel, she will go to bed with him for one night. Valmont and Merteuil must have had some epic relations because he spends the next few months trying to fulfill that request, so he can bed her. She tempts and deceives him all along the way.
Theatre 3 is theatre in the round and as such does very much with little set. The main pieces of set stay on stage and are moved from on corner to another when we change from Merteuil's Paris apartment to the country manor and back again. The practical stairs include a piece never used that adds depth to the vision of the large homes in which these wealthy people lived. Very dynamic use of a very small stage.
Being that the novels were written about contemporary France, you might expect powdered wigs, deep French accents and lots of brocade. However, Ms. Greene wanted this to remain contemporary because she believes the story is still fresh in today's world. Let's face it, you don't have to watch a lot of Dr. Phil or Jerry Springer to find stories with similar themes. That being the case, Ms. Yanofsky dressed everybody in normal clothing you would find at any boutique in any mall in America. And everybody has an American accent which is helpful since this dialogue is taken from 140 years ago it is a bit wordy and overblown by today's vernacular. Nothing like Shakespeare where you might need Cliff Notes to follow along, but to get some of the nuances of the script, you do need to listen well.
There are mostly women in this show and most of them are treacherous or they are easily led into treachery. Dylan Shelby's role as the Major Domo although important to some scenes, is useless to the plotline and Jonah Munroe plays Danceny as the trusting gentleman that gets duped by both Valmont and Merteuil. Danceny does not fully realize the people he is associating with and Jonah is a constant entertainment to them and as such to the audience.
Brandon Potter as Valmont is the focus of the entire show. He is a pla-yah at the level, BOSS. He is seducing two different women of diverse backgrounds and morals. He is accomplishing this through two very different scams. All the while he is trying to get one more night of pleasure with an old flame and discredit an enemy in the fallout. He's got a lot of things going on.
Brandon is so excellent in this role it is amazing. He is as snide as John de Lancie's Q from Star Trek TNG while being as charming as George Clooney's Danny Ocean. He is the one character who runs the gambit of emotions throughout the play and he brings them all to life. He is at times slimy and sleek, then loving and careful, sexually aggressive and tormented by demons he may not have known existed. He lets you know what is going on inside his head by subtle facial expressions coupled with spot-on mannerisms. Very high on my list for Column Award season.
Cindee Mayfield makes the perfect mate, foil, frenemy of Valmont. She is a cold, calculating bitch of a woman whose only real pleasure in life seems to be destroying men. Her character is one note this way. She doesn't care who she hurts along the way as long she can relish in her revenge in the end. I would have hoped that there could be some redeeming quality found with her.
The other older ladies in the cast were properly aristocratic with all the positives and negatives that go along with that. I wish that Lydia Mackay would have been a little more morally uptight in the beginning of the play. Hair done up in a tight school-marm bun, completely stand-offish to Valmont even after she hears of his 'great humanitarian deed'. It seemed she was too willing to give into desire and cheat on her husband from the beginning. At least in her thoughts at first. She didn't have to go as far to be corrupted by Valmont as I was first led to believe.
This play is not for the kids by any stretch. It would not be rated 'R' as the movie version was, but I would suggest it to be a strong PG-13 for a couple of scenes and the overall content. It is one of the best shows I have seen this year with superb acting, tight direction and a timeless story. Well worth the time and energy for sexy date with your favorite person.
"Les Liaisons Dangereuses" plays through July 8th at Theatre Three in the Quadrangle 2800 Routh ST Dallas.
Thur Evening 7:30
Fri/Sat Evening 8:00
Sun Matinee 2:30
Sat Matinee (July 7th) 2:30
Hooky Matinee (June 27th) 2:00
To purchase tickets, visit www.theatre3dallas.com or call the Box Office @ 214-871-3300. The Box Office is also open one hour prior to performances.