Les Liaisons Dangereuses

by Dale Reynolds

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday October 31, 2017

Scott Ferrara and Elyse Mirto
Scott Ferrara and Elyse Mirto   

Christopher Hampton's 1984 adaptation for the stage of the 1782 novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, "Les Liaisons Dangereuses," is a marvel to behold, especially in this new production by Robin Larsen at the incredibly adventurous Antaeus Theatre Company.

The third play in their latest season, in their new home in Glendale, shows a commitment to making the most of the superb plays they produce, which are amazing, and as with this production, eye-opening. The novel, which didn't anticipate the upheaval France would go through less than a decade later, sets the stage cleverly with a modified look -- part classical, mostly modern -- that allows the wretched games, sexual and political, to play out with as much cynicism as can be advanced as these men and women expose their inner nasty.

The Marquise de Merteuil (Elyse Mirto) in her mid-30s, perhaps, has a strange game she plays with an ex-suitor of her, Le Vicomte de Valmont (Henri Lubatti), over who can cause the cruelest damage to the reputations of the other French nobility who travel in their circles. To effect that end, Merteuil will agree to sleep with Valmont for one night only (something he is desperate to achieve) if he will seduce and ruin Madam de Volenges' (Dylan Jones), fifteen-year-old daughter, Cécile (Chelsea Kurtz), whose engagement to an ex of Merteuil's will make him the laughingstock of Paris. And such were the sexual politics of the day.

But worse is Valmont's eventual degradation of a woman he has fallen in love with, La Présidente de Tourvel (Lindsey LaVanchy), having met her at the country mansion of his elderly aunt, Madam de Rosemonde (Lorna Raver).

Considering what sexual mischiefs are finally getting their just due in the otherwise complicit press of our day, this play is shockingly prescient. The audiences' discomfort with the high-brow shenanigans was palpable at both casts' rendition of this quality material. And in support of Stanislavsky's admonition that "there are no small parts; just small actors" comes the arresting performance of Aaron Lyons as the majordomo of Valmont -- such quietly-approached evil, marvelously underplayed.

And while the casts were exemplary, with Larsen's sure hand overseeing it all, the fact that they never pulled back from the disheartening activities of the period was equaled in the elegantly and eloquently simple set and projection design of Yee Eun Nam of tiled floor and expensive-looking set pieces and props, most evident in the 3D look of the country gardens that backed some of the action. The chic costumes of Jocelyn Hublau Parker, sophistication itself, combined some of the stylistic look of the 18th Century with a modern twist -- none of them out of place in this production and worn as real clothes by the cast.

Also, the choreography of Ned Mochel makes the sword fight at the end between Valmont and the young suitor of Merteuil, Le Chevalier Danceny (Josh Breslow, terrific at playing young while looking a decade older than his character), excitingly handled. But, if any one thing was over-balanced, it was the loudness of the score (composed by Jeff Polunas), however effective in supporting the mood.

This is a glorious production, with earned major respect for its courage, look, and the kinds of talents Antaeus employs.

"Les Liaisons Dangereuses" plays through December 10 at Kiki and David Gindler Performing Arts Center, 110 E. Broadway, Glendale 91205. For tickets or information, call 818-506-1983 or visit www.Antaeus.org.