Oh those idle rich. Oh how they are so easily bored. Oh how they can just as easily bore us. In this newest listless revival of Christopher Hampton’s infamous adaptation of Choderlos de Laclos’ 1782 scandalous novel of letters LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES we have a misguided concept by director Josie Rourke (Artistic Director of the Donmar Warehouse, London) with mismatched ex-lovers (Janet McTeer and Liev Schreiber) blithely playing cat and mouse with muffled voices, playing cards, drinking wine and champagne and attempting to ruin the reputations of their victims with cruel intent. To dominate. To humiliate.
Are we at The Ghost of Versailles? Or is it Don Giovanni? The dream-like stage design by Tom Scutt with crumbling walls, florescent lights, over size paintings of floral bouquets, chaise- longues and candlelit chandeliers is used to represent “various salons and bedrooms in Paris and the countryside circa 1780.” Only it doesn’t. Clearly that is. Various actors scurry around resetting the furniture while singing or vowel-ing some Baroque music that becomes just plain silly while it becomes increasingly unclear as to where we are and who is doing what to whom.
What is intended to be provocative soon becomes a snooze fest featuring decaying and decadent aristocratic morals.
Janet McTeer a regal, elegant and cold as ice La Marquise de Merteuil has been jilted by yet another young lover (Danceny – Raffi Barsoumian) who is to marry the much younger and just-out-of-the-convent Cecile (Elena Kampouris).
“No way!” says she to her ex-beau Le Vicomte de Valmont (an extremely uncomfortable Liev Schreiber) trying to coerce him into seducing Cecile ruining her for Danceny – promising to bed her ex once again if he is successful.
“No way!” says he – “Too easy,” having set his lecherous eyes and hands on the married and uptight Madame de Tourvel (Birgitte Hjort Sorensen). And then what do you know? – he seduces both and falls in love with Madame de Tourvel ruining everything.
He pouts. He drinks. He’s playing at being a bad boy. Languidly. Hardly any fire here. Especially with his ex-flame that fizzles before us. Where are the sparks that once ignited between these two? Where is the sly passion?
She poses. She confides. She manipulates. She looks divine is her gowns by Tom Scutt as do all the women. But pity Mr. Schreiber with his ill-fitting wig, white hose, period shoes and odd accent looking for the closet exit to escape a part that should be rakish, charming and confident.
You get my drift, I hope.
This most disappointing and unclear production is “Direct from London” from the Donmar Warehouse. Please pack up the remaining set pieces and return to sender. At the Booth Theatre through Jan 22nd.
Photo: Johan Persson
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