The cruel machinations of a decadent aristocracy months before the bloody French Revolution took place is the focus of Christopher Hampton's stage play, "Les Liaisons Dangereuses," which is having its Baltimore premiere at the Fell's Point Corner Theatre.
A worthwhile production it is directed with intensity and high style by Barry Feinstein. This intriguing period piece complete with costumes of the time is based on the 200-year-old French classic novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. (Hampton's adaptation became a very successful motion picture featuring Glenn Close and John Malkovich).
The beautifully written script with its hard-edged philosophy and precise, lyrical dialogue turns suddenly from brittle, sophisticated amusement to heartbreak and tragedy.
The fascination with the stage work is watching two psychotic members of the corrupt ruling society cruelly manipulate and methodically destroy two innocent women for the purpose of revenge and simply for the malevolent fun of it.
The evil La Marquise de Merteuil and her foppish, vain and utterly vile chum, Le Vicomte de Valmont, play a dangerous game of carnal power. Drawn to each other like two poisonous snakes sharing the same venom, the debauched duo set a grotesque sexual snare to capture and torment their victims.
Enraged at a former suitor, Merteuil persuades Valmont to seduce his 15-year-old intended bride (a virgin) so that the girl will be "spoiled" for the wedding night. He agrees but says he first wants to seduce La Presidente de Tourvel, a virtuous married woman who is devoutly faithful to her husband.
He succeeds in both instances but, in his lust for power and the thrill of the game, the coldly vicious Valmont is ironically caught in his own trap of despised romantic love.
Feinstein has moved his people well around the rather barren set (which changes panels for different locations), and the cast, on the whole, does an admirable job.
The finest performance is given by Tim Munn as the coldly arrogant and narcissistic Valmont although the actor could relish his delicious wickedness a little more.
Amy Jo Shapiro is the cunning Merteuil and as such stalks the stage like a sleek, dark cat. But this character, above all, is elegant in her heinous ways as she slyly and subtly handles all with a velvet glove. A woman of conflicting desires (she yearns for Valmont) we must see her dual emotions. We never see this in Shapiro's superficial performance. The actress plays on one level (with one mean change of expression) that is too earthy, screeching out her anger. There is no subtly in her interpretation, no finely shaded transitions.
Amy Wieczorek is lovely and sweetly moving as de Tourvel, the good woman brought down. Sabine Herts is a fine Mme de Rosemonde. Anthony Rothkin and Elizabeth Kosztolnyik convince as would-be young lovers.
Good performances by Laura McFarland, Ava Lenet and Richard Jackson.
The glorious days of the old Royal Theatre on Pennsylvania Avenue are being re-enacted in the premiere of a very entertaining new musical revue, "Sneakin' Out at the Royal Theatre," being staged by the Encore Dinner Theatre.
The show plays every Wednesday through June 12 at The Forum. Written and directed by Cherri Cunningham-Cragway, the show features a roster of talented Baltimoreans who portray such famed singing groups as the Platters, the Ink Spots, the Supremes, the Temptations and the Drifters.
Others sing in the styles of Dinah Washington, Cab Calloway and Sam Cooke. Lead performers include Michael Lee, Wanda Tyler and Calvin Alston. The whole cast is excellent. Rousing accompaniment is given by a lively six piece band under the musical direction of Melvin N. Miles Jr.