Win—or Die

Les Liaisons Dangereuses is one of the great art works of the twentieth century.  Cynical and sentimental, personal and political, every line drips with subtext, and each moment is written with the same precision that the two principals, Marquise de Merteuil (Janet McTeer) and Vicomte de Valmont (Liev Schreiber), bring to their games of sexual conquest. Continue reading “Win—or Die”


To the Fairest

I must admit I’ve never been particularly taken with ancient Greek theater. I’ve seen everyone from anonymous high schoolers to Vanessa Redgrave attempting it and I’ve always found it to be plodding and dull. Not the case with Paris. Company XIV uses movement, burlesque, pop opera, instrumental interlude and stage magic to tell their version of The Judgement of Paris. They use the eponymous character’s name as a direction for the flavor of the production and as such their rendition of Greek mythology includes the can-can, champagne table service, and a mustachioed Zeus (Charlotte Bydwell) with a thick French accent. Continue reading “To the Fairest”

Is This It, Sir? History?

Just as William Snelgrave (Gordon Joseph Weiss) and his wife, Darcy (Concetta Tomei), are nearing the end of their quarantine, two interlopers break into their home and the clock resets.  It’s 1665, the year of the Great Plague that would kill almost one quarter of London’s population.  King Charles II and his family have fled to Oxford, and despite their wealth, the Snelgraves are stuck, barred from leaving after their servants get sick.  The interlopers are Morse (Remy Zaken), a twelve-year-old girl who spent two nights and a day under the collapsed, feverish body of her father before he died, and Bunce (Joseph W. Rodriguez), a pirate trying to avoid conscription by the Navy.  For a time, the group forms a de facto family, with Morse playing daughter and Bunce servant, though the inevitable equality that catastrophe brings means that these heavily class-inflected roles cannot sustain themselves for long. Continue reading “Is This It, Sir? History?”

Why Are You Talking to Me?

The forty-two-year-old Georgie Burns (Mary Louise-Parker) approaches the seventy-five-year-old Alex Priest (Denis Arndt) in the St. Pancras Train Station.  In that aggressively confessional manner that is typical of some Americans, she immediately unloads on him, forcing an intimacy that has not yet been earned.  And in that icily reserved manner that is typical of some Englishmen, Alex resists.  “In the end I do know that people will reject me so I try to behave in a way that just speeds the whole process up,” she tells him long after this characteristic has become apparent to the entire audience. Continue reading “Why Are You Talking to Me?”

Heresies Are Experiments

Steampunk—the combination of Victorian and science fiction styles—never had its mainstream breakthrough, and yet at the same time it feels played out.  This contradiction means that context is important: at a bar in Bushwick, I might roll my eyes at top hats or driving goggles.  But in Cirque du Soleil?  It’s a perfect fit. Continue reading “Heresies Are Experiments”

Is This the Government of Britain’s Isle?

CHICAGO—Barbara Gaines concludes her marathon production of Shakespeare’s War of the Roses with Tug of War: Civil Strife, and this time, the tug comes not from without but from within.  The initially stable if timid reign of Henry VI (Steven Sutcliffe) faces a challenge from the House of York, but York is a house divided, and as soon as the family seizes the crown, Richard of Gloucester (Timothy Edward Kane) begins plotting the destruction of his older brothers, Edward (Michael Aaron Lindner) and Clarence (John Tufts). Continue reading “Is This the Government of Britain’s Isle?”