Saturday, April 26, 2008

It Was Beyond My Control

A couple nights ago I saw Dangerous Liasons, or Les Liaisons Dangereuses as the French and Roundabout would call it. It started with a bang, and for the first act—90 minutes long—it really worked. The pacing was good and the humor ranged from witty to bawdy with stops everywhere in between. Ben Daniels, a newcomer to Broadway but extremely accomplished in the West End, brought energy and enthusiasm to his role of sexual conquistador extraordinaire. Mamie Gummer brought just the right shyness, idiocy, and playfulness to her role as a sheltered, convent-educated pawn.

And our star, Laura Linney...I’ve loved her in many movies and liked her in Sight Unseen. She brings just the right humanity to flawed characters, allowing us to almost always relate and often times like them despite their shortcomings. But as La Marquise de Merteuil she is something of a nonentity. The role is certainly a challenging one, because her character orchestrates a whirlwind of deception, manipulation, and devastation but doesn't actually do much of any thing. She offers a great deal of exposition, none of which is riveting. It’s disappointing to see a truly talented actress serve as nothing more than a plot device. Plus, for a big chunk of the show a very cruel intentioned (See what I did there? Cruel Intentions was the movie based on the book on which this play is based) costume designer has her wearing a yellow gown that, accompanied by her blond hair and the gold-toned set, just makes her look jaundiced.

By the time the second act was wrapping up, the play’s length and endless exposition had taken it’s toll and I was struggling to stay awake. I hate to admit it, but for a moment or two I even dozed; it was beyond my control. I’m glad I saw this, but I wish the creative team had tightened it and made better use of Linney’s talent.


S Bennett said...

I just saw the review on NY1's On Stage, and they thought it was bad too.

They said that one would be better served taking a date to a museum than this boring show.

Ah well .. .