(From OLT website)
The Danger never ends
Ottawa Little Theatre continues a terrific season
by Jim Murchison
I am starting this review from a weird place. I am struck by how little humanity has changed in 300 years. Oh, technologically we have grown by leaps and bounds, but our capacity to hurt the ones we love the most and our misplaced reverence for celebrity and privilege aren't really any different.
Director Geoff Gruson chose to use twentieth century music for the scene changes and mood setting for this Christopher Hampton play set in the eighteenth century. At first I thought it incongruous, but eventually I warmed to it because it made me focus on the timelessness of the themes of cruelty, vanity and manipulation.
Andrew Hamlin's set is simple. By flying in window frames, pivoting or hiding the double doors at centre stage and moving the furniture arrangements, the same basic pieces become different homes, drawing rooms and boudoirs. John Solman's lighting is particularly effective when he uses the fading light to create tight amber tableaus. Perhaps the most important aspect of period pieces like this one is the costuming. Emily Sousanna has done a wonderful job of creating elegant dresses and opulent jackets fit for ladies and gentlemen.
The initial device of the play is a nasty wager between the Marquise de Merteuil played with lascivious understatement by Venetia Lawless and the Viscomte de Valmont played with just an ounce of conscience by John Muggleton.
Lawless plays her role with well crafted seductiveness. Lawless’ character doesn’t suffer from a great deal of conflict, but her well played salacious conniving is performed convincingly. She is insatiable but more for the heady power of conquest than the sex.
She controls every moment and the only one that can get under her skin in any way is Valmont.
His character’s dilemma is communicated in the flicker of conscience in his eyes when he realizes he truly cares and loves.
Muggleton plays his character with a well concocted blend of testosterone and vanity. He plays the smug bravado very well. He is a rogue and proud of it. But what makes his character more fascinating is his inner conflict. His character’s dilemma is communicated in the flicker of conscience in his eyes when he realizes he truly cares and loves.
Heather Archibald is Mme. de Tourvel. She possesses more principles than the others. Archibald does a fine job of conveying her conviction. She plays the erosion of her resolve quite deftly, allowing her passion to overtake her, while never being completely at peace with it.
Danny McLeod bursts in as le Chevalier de Danceny with such youthful exuberance and naivety that he gets some well deserved laughs. If you were afraid that this might make the character one dimensional you needn’t worry. No one in this story is able to maintain their innocence for very long.
Ultimately, the tragedy of the play is not that no one can find true love, but that they can’t be true to their love. It is still our most basic human weakness.
I have been thinking a lot about how much communication has changed recently. Last week I saw Titanic-The Musical and I was struck by how limited the loss would have been today. The news would have gone viral in a nanosecond. Dangerous Liaisons demonstrates how in the 18th century everything was communicated by letter and people would wait days or weeks excitedly waiting for news of their heart’s desire. In the final analysis we haven’t stopped hurting each other. We can just do it with lightning speed.