Christopher Hampton’s plot within a plot tragi-comedy Les Liaisons Dangereuses is at the John Waldron Arts Center. The production directed by Amanda Renee Baker makes imaginative use of an open set where characters can watch one another from a variety of angles and even slide from one scene and time into another. Art Director Jennifer Deal has augmented the action of the real actors with projections on five big screens above the stage. Music director Kyle McIntosh and Sean Fear played keyboard, guitar and a variety of percussion effects to accent the action.
Breshaun-Birene Joyner and Daniel Petrie were the play’s plotting Marquise and Vicomte. Stephanie Dodge and Angie Hickman were their victims in a complicated set of social revenges through seduction. Annie Vowell and Judy Blackburn were the society matrons. Bobby Hackett was the Vicomte’s ultra flexible servant. Anthony Stratton played the Marquies’s stoney faced major-domo. Emily Goodson was an ornamental plaything. Nathan Relken as a young lover played a combination of Tybalt from Romeo and Juliett and Horatio from Hamlet.
Les Liaisons Dangereuses is a dark play of sexual politics set in a time when women were at a distinct disadvantage is the battle of the sexes. The Marquise is an enigmatic creature a bit like the scorpion of the fable who stings simply because it is her nature. Breshaun-Birene Joyner as the Marquise is a formidable figure on stage, but I wished for a little more range and perhaps even a display of some vulnerability to fill out her character. Stephanie Dodge managed to do the transformation from frightened innocent to eagerly complicitous companion nicely. Angie Hickman was resolute in her resistance and then sadly pathetic in defeat. The Vicomte is a spider caught in his own web and Daniel J. Petrie managed the emotional ups and downs of his character with good flow. The script does offer some brittle wit with some well thought out laughs, though Thursday night’s audience laughed out loud at only a few of the clever jibes.
Christopher Hampton’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses plays tonight and Saturday night at eight at the John Waldron Arts Center.