Review: Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Les Liaisons Dangereuses Booth Theatre Written by Christopher Hampton; Based on the novel by Choderlos de Laclos; Original Music: Michael Bruce Directed by Josie Rourke Scenic Design by Tom Scutt; Costume Design by Tom Scutt; Lighting Design by Mark Henderson; Sound Design by Carolyn Downing; Hair Design by Campbell Young; Make-Up Design by Campbell Young Janet McTeer La Marquise de Merteuil Liev Schreiber Le Vicomte de Valmont Elena Kampouris Broadway debutCécile Volanges Mary Beth Peil Madame de Rosemonde Birgitte Hjort Sørensen Broadway debut Mme. de Tourval Raffi Barsoumian Broadway debut Le Chevalier Danceny Katrina Cunningham Émilie a courtesan Joy Franz Victoire Ora Jones Madame de Volanges David Patterson Broadway debut Major-domo Josh Salt Azolan Valmont's valet de chambre Laura Sudduth Broadway debut Julie Understudies: Katrina Cunningham (Cécile Volanges), Rachel deBenedet (La Marquise de Merteuil), Joy Franz (Madame de Rosemonde), Ron Menzel (Le Vicomte de Valmont, Major-domo), David Patterson (Azolan, Le Chevalier Danceny) and Laura Sudduth (Mme. de Tourval, Victoire, Émil

It’s a little different seeing Les Liaisons Dangereuses in these days of heightened awareness of the prevalence of sexual assaults on women. Our new pussy-grabber-in-cheif makes the exploits of the rapacious Vicomte de Valmont stand out even more starkly. Valmont may claim that his assaults are intentionally resistible so that woman can’t claim he forced them. Still, he does indeed grab women – who are saying no – right in the pussy. If in the past the Marquise de Merteuil’s final “war” on Valmont seemed a pass too far, it seems all too justifiable now.

As Valmont, Liev Schreiber cleverly calibrates all of this, shading his interpretation with the sense that he is more a slave of his appetites than their master. He is possibly the sexiest man ever to play Valmont, with a brooding virility that helps explain this decadent man’s appeal. Schreiber is better known for playing more macho sorts, but proves more than capable of playing – with great intelligence and sophistication at that – a dissolute, even melancholy 18th Century French aristocrat.

Former lovers, Merteuil and Valmont compete in games of seduction and revenge. And if Schreiber’s Valmont is the louche, lounging sort, then Janer McTeer’s Merteuil is the very picture of elegant yet implacable ferocity. Her consonants rustle, her vowels throb. Her hands and fingers flutter with the lethal precision of daggers. The exterior is calculating and cool, but seething lava boils underneath. It’s one hell of a performance, and if McTeer isn’t remembered with a nomination at Tony time, I’m crying foul.

Director Josie Rourke has given these star turns a gorgeous production, all candle-lit chandeliers and the effortless glamour of decay. The pace is languorous without being unbearable, a minor-key pavane of a privileged class on the brink of collapse. Highly recommended.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

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