LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES

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***1/2

The original West End Production of LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES by Christopher Hampton moved to Broadway in 1987, with Alan Rickman as Valmont and Lindsay Duncan as Marquise de Merteuil.  This was such an exquisite pairing of dueling lovers that they were cast again in the 2002 revival of Noel Coward’s PRIVATE LIVES.  I saw both productions twice and loved every minute of them.

I recently saw the National Theatre Live broadcast of the Donmar Warehouse’s production of LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES at a local theater and with the announcement of its move to Broadway this coming season, I thought I would weigh in.  This is a darker, more gossipy, more ferocious version of the play.

Janet McTeer is a formidable actress, among the best of her generation, capable of fine nuance and grand dramatic gestures, both equally truthful.  Her Nora in 1997’s A DOLL’S HOUSE was stunning.  Dominic West, although a sturdy Actor, is no match for Ms. McTeer.  Especially in a production that has heightened the gaming aspects of the script, she needs a stronger opponent to thrust and parry. Hopefully they have found it in Liev Schreiber, who is taking over the role of Valmont for Broadway.  I am really looking forward to this production.

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(The play is based on a 1782 French novel. There was a 2008 revival that was not as successful.)

THE FATHER

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THE FATHER starring Frank Langella is a sad play. It is a sad play like I NEVER SANG FOR MY FATHER is a sad play, like DEATH OF A SALESMAN or ‘NIGHT MOTHER; really really sad.

Frank Langella gives a wonderfully nuanced and theatrical performance as a man who is losing his battle with dementia. The play, by Florian Zeller with Christopher Hampton‘s translation from French, toys with the audience by having different actors play the same character, putting scenes out-of-order and with magically disappearing scenery. (They even list an “illusion consultant” in the program.) It’s so disorienting that the audience gets a taste of what it must be like to have Alzheimer’s disease.

Langella’s André does not slip away into that good night. He fights it all the way with humor, charm, bullying, tap dancing, anger, and intellect, but it is a losing battle.  We know it, André knows it and that is why this play is so very sad. FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON sad.

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