Les Liaison Dangereuses | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Les Liaison Dangereuses


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Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Circle Theatre. Courtesans with heaving bosoms. Rakish men reclining on divans in doublets and Minnie Mouse shoes. Sly sexual intrigues in steamy boudoirs. Illicit groping on virginal white sheets. Mispronounced French names. It must be Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Again.

Over the past decade it's been difficult to escape modern adaptations of Choderlos de Laclos' 1782 erotic roman about deadly games of sexual one-upmanship, whether Stephen Frears's or Milos Forman's film versions or the plays penned by Heiner Muller and Christopher Hampton, presented at Center Theater and Interplay. Hampton's adaptation, the one used by Circle Theatre, is neither well paced nor relevant, and it borrows from Thomas Middleton's far superior Women Beware Women; but it does offer charismatic actors the chance to have nasty fun with juicy roles.

But unfortunately this production is sluggish, uninvolving, unattractively designed, and monotonously acted. As the scheming Marquise de Merteuil, Irene Tassiopulos does a passable Mae West impersonation, but Robert Bailey's Vicomte de Valmont is so unappealing that it would be hard to imagine him seducing a sock puppet, much less caring whether he succeeded. Most of the ensemble spend their time playing flat caricatures of salon types and butchering French ("Madame" is "Muh-damn," "Vicomte" is "Veee-kompt," and "Chevalier Danceny" varies depending on who's talking). Only Erin Grennan and Paul Denniston as a couple of poor saps find depth and wit in their roles. When they aren't onstage we, like Valmont, are left to sigh, "I shan't have a moment's peace till this is done with." --Adam Langer

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