Temple’s production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, directed by Larry Beyah, opened in Tomlinson Theater last Thursday. Based on the novel by Choderlos de Laclos, Christopher Hampton’s script is loquacious and piercing. In this world, few characters correspond with their outward appearances.
La Marquise de Merteuil (Kaleo Bird) presents herself as the kind friend to all. Her skill fools almost everyone–even, at times, her equally duplicitous ex-lover, Le Vicomte de Valmont (Lindsay Smiling). Together, Merteuil and Valmont plot revenge, destroying the happiness of two young lovers and a sincere, virtuous wife, La Presidente de Tourvel (Amina Robinson) and others.
Like fingernails on a chalkboard, the unabashed malevolence of Mertueil and Valmont is chilling. The two characters’ evil nature balances the giddy, inexperienced Cecile Volanges (Kamilah Bayete) and the charmingly naive sycophant Le Chavalier Danceny (Lawrence Stallings). For all of Mertueil’s and Valmont’s skills, only Mme. de Rosemonde (the delightfully serene Keely J. Hitchens) and Valmont’s serving man, Azolan (the cynically devoted Brian T. Delaney) truly seem to grasp the results of all their chicanery.
Larry Beyah’s direction is unique, almost cinematic at times. There are no full blackouts and the characters are sometimes staged to give the impression that they are visually “eavesdropping.” Also, the characters seldom make eye contact when they are speaking with one another. On one level this adds to the duplicity of Hampton’s play, but on another it is a bit unnatural, leaving audience members to wonder whether the characters are looking out to them for the answers. While the plot, location and dialects can be confusing at times, Erin K. Capron’s fabulous period costumes, Graham Kindred’s integral lighting design and Bradley R. Helm’s simple yet elegant set and sound designs bring the play alive.
Les Liaisons Dangereuses runs through Nov. 4 at the Tomlinson Theater. Tickets are FREE to students with a GAF card.