Magazine article Variety

Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Magazine article Variety

Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Article excerpt

Les Liaisons Dangereuses


Theater: Booth ; 770 seats; $149 top

Director: Josie Rourke

Starring: Janet McTeer, Liev Schrieber

What did people ever do before iPhone games? In 18th century Paris, where the sophisticates in "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" lived, members of the upper classes passed the time playing parlor games like "Ravish the Virgin" and "Seduce the Loyal Wife," at which the bored aristocrats in this seductive play (adapted by Christopher Hampton from a 1782 French novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos) prove uncommonly adept. The imposing Janet McTeer and a sturdy if curiously miscast Liev Schreiber are the principal players in the stylish Donmar Warehouse production currently at the Booth Theater.

Better banish memories of the sexy Stephen Frears film starring Glenn Close, Michelle Pfeiffer, and a malevolent John Malkovich. And try not to think of the Royal Shakespeare Company's 1988 treatment starring Lindsay Duncan and that silken snake Alan Rickman. In this version, which originated in London under the direction of the Donmar's artistic director, Josie Rourke, wit and style count more than passion.

The plot is perversity itself. Out of sheer boredom, the manipulative Marquise de Merteuil (McTeer) challenges her ex-lover, the notorious roué Vicomte de Valmont (Schreiber), to deflower the virginal Cecile Volanges (Elena Kampouris), fresh out of the convent and due to be married.

Valmont would prefer to seduce the faithful Madame de Tourvel (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, in a role that earned an Oscar nomination for Michelle Pfeiffer), but a challenge from Merteuil is tempting. And when McTeer throws down the gauntlet, he just can't resist.

So far, the potential victims are no more than pawns in this sexual power game. The real contest is between Valmont and Merteuil, whose competition is only an excuse to inflame their own passion, an entertainment they probably frequently indulge. …

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