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Not So Dangerous Liaisons

October 30th, 2016 Comments off

Les Liaisons DangereusesPerhaps one of the greatest trickeries in the current Broadway revival of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, is not the drawing room antics of La Marquise de Merteuil (Janet McTeer) or her lover/nemesis Le Vicomte de Valmont (Liev Schreiber), but the Playbill cover, which shows the pair in an elicit embrace, promising theatrical fireworks that just might enflame the Booth Theatre.

Alas, while the pair is adept at cutting wordplay, Christopher Hampton’s 1987 stage adaptation of the book by the same name is full of witty one-liners but must rely on full-throttle staging to lift it off the page.

Director Josie Rourke’s production, which originated at London’s Donmar Warehouse, is modestly successful, with no help from a dreary, dilapidated set by Tom Scutt. (His costumes, limited though they are, offer a glimmer of what the physical production could have aspired to.) This Les Liaisons Dangereuses is lean instead of lush, staged on a single set that’s dressed (or undressed, as the case may be) by an ensemble of operatic chambermaids.

Set in various salons and bedrooms throughout Paris and the countryside in the early 1780s, Merteuil and Valmont conspire to corrupt various virtuous women for their own gain: Merteuil wants Valmont’s aid in deflowering the young Cécile Volanges (Elena Kampouris), who has been betrothed to Merteuil’s ex-lover. But Valmont has his eyes set on Madame de Tourvel (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen) as the ultimate conquest. The pair agrees that if both tasks are accomplished, Merteuil will relent to one last evening of debauchery with Valmont. But then something unexpected happens: love gets in the way.

Birgitte Hjort Sørensen and Liev Schreiber in 'Les Liaisons Dangereuses.' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Birgitte Hjort Sørensen and Liev Schreiber in ‘Les Liaisons Dangereuses.’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

It’s difficult to ascertain what’s awry in this mostly tepid production—it’s like going on a date with someone who checks all the boxes but with whom you find no spark. As the manipulative Merteuil, McTeer is downright juicy in her interpretation of the text, keeping her true feelings for Valmont simmering under the surface and using witty repartee to her advantage:

“Love is something you use, not something you fall into, like a quicksand, don’t you remember? It’s like medicine, you use it as a lubricant to nature.”

As the testosterone-driven Valmont, Schreiber’s understated performance is mostly in first gear, and while he puts the pedal to the floor in a few key moments (the staging of Cécile’s bedroom seduction is delightful), his 18th century posturing could use some unhinging. In her Broadway debut, Sørensen beautifully captures love’s unruly nature and provides a pure-souled counterpart to the deceptions at hand.

While there’s plenty to find attractive in Les Liaisons Dangereuses, it’s ultimately an unfinished canvas (literally represented by the set dressing, which includes scattered portraits throughout). In modern times, you might hover over its image for a few fleeting seconds, but eventually swipe left, looking for the next potential lover to strike your fancy.

Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Booth Theatre
222 West 45th Street, NYC
Through January 22, 2017

Matthew Wexler is The Broadway Blog’s editor. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at @roodeloo.

Three to See: October – Revival Edition

October 4th, 2016 Comments off

It’s show time! After a gloomy late summer when Broadway shows were shuttering like a hurricane was about to blow into town, things are picking up with a slew of new openings. This month, what’s old is new again with three revivals that hope to capitalize on big stars, Tony Award-winning composers, and creative visions for classic material. We’ll see what sticks!

The Front PageThe Front Page
Written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, The Front Page first opened at the Times Square Theatre in 1928. Nearly 90 years later, this revival marks the sixth production to hit the boards.

The play takes place in the press room of Chicago’s Criminal Courts Building, which is buzzing with reporters covering the story of an escaped prisoner. When star reporter Hildy Johnson (John Slattery) accidentally discovers the runaway convict, he and his editor Walter Burns (Nathan Lane) conspire to hide the man from the other reporters, while they chase the biggest scoop of their careers.

Often cited as the greatest play ever written about the newspaper business, The Front Page has also been a hit on screen. A 1931 film version starred Adolphe Menjou as Walter Burns and Pat O’Brien as Hildy Johnson. The 1940 film adaptation, His Girl Friday, starring Cary Grant as Walter Burns and Rosalind Russell as a now-female Hildy Johnson, is considered one of the classics of the screwball comedy genre, and in 1993 was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry.

The Front Page
Broadhurst Theatre
235 West 44th Street
Opening night: October 20

 

The cast of Lincoln Center Theatre's 'Falsettos.'

The cast of Lincoln Center Theatre’s ‘Falsettos.’

Falsettos
What other show could open with “four Jews in a room bitching” other than William Finn and James Lapine’s 1992 look at love and life through the lens of the AIDS crisis?

The groundbreaking, Tony Award-winning musical Falsettos comes back to Broadway this fall in an all-new production from Lincoln Center Theater. Lapine returns to direct an extraordinary cast featuring Stephanie J. Block (The Mystery of Edwin Drood), Christian Borle (Something Rotten!, Tony Award), Andrew Rannells (The Book of Mormon), Anthony Rosenthal, Tracie Thoms, Brandon Uranowitz (An American in Paris) and Betsy Wolfe (The Last Five Years).

Falsettos revolves around the life of a charming, intelligent, neurotic gay man named Marvin, his wife, lover, about-to-be-Bar-Mitzvahed son, their psychiatrist, and the lesbians next door. It’s a hilarious and achingly poignant look at the infinite possibilities that make up a modern family… and a beautiful reminder that love can tell a million stories.

Falsettos
Walter Kerr Theater
219 West 48th Street
Opening night: October 27

Les Liasons Dangereuses

Les Liasons Dangereuses

Les Liasons Dangereuses
Talk about a power play. Live Schreiber, Tony Award winner for Best Actor in Glengarry Glen Ross and star of Showtime’s “Ray Donovan”; and Janet McTeer, Tony winner for Best Actress in A Doll’s House, return to Broadway in one of the sexiest plays ever written.

Les Liasons Dangereuses begins with two ex-lovers who scheme to ruin the reputation of an innocent young aristocrat. As their game of seduction and manipulation becomes more intricate, they quickly discover that the stakes are higher than they bargained for… and their last encounter may be their most dangerous by far.

Direct from London, McTeer reprises her role in the Donmar Warehouse’s critically acclaimed, sold-out production. Written by Academy Award winner Christopher Hampton, re-imagined by Olivier Award nominee and Donmar Artistic Director Josie Rourke, and brought to Broadway by the Tony-winning producer of Red, this staging promises to breathe a bold new life into one of the theater’s most provocative and intriguing plays. 

Les Liasons Dangereuses
Booth Theatre
222 West 45th Street
Opening night: October 30