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Les Liaisons Dangereuses Review - An Irresistible Story of Sex and Power

By Jessie Bond

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(left to right) Sara Pavlak McGuire and Robert Tobin in AstonRep Theatre Company’s production of LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES by Christopher Hampton, based on the novel by Choderlos de Laclos and directed by Charlie Marie McGrath

Sex. Love. Power. Revenge. Fabulous period costumes. All this and more can be found in AstonRep Theatre Company’s production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses. An adaptation of a novel by Choderlos de Laclos, this thrilling story of intrigue and deceit among Russian aristocrats captivates its audience with rich characters and surprises at every turn.

(left to right) Sara Pavlak McGuire, Alexandra Bennett and Emma Ladji in AstonRep Theatre Company’s production of LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES by Christopher Hampton, based on the novel by Choderlos de Laclos and directed by Charlie Marie McGrath

At the center of the play are the Maquise de Merteuil (Sara Pavlak McGuire) and the Vicomte de Valmont (Robert Tobin), a pair of former lovers who use their cleverness and sexual experience to manipulate those around them into doing their bidding. Merteuil hatches a plan to exact revenge on another former lover by destroying the reputation of his innocent fiancée Cecile; meanwhile, Valmont plans to seduce the extremely virtuous (and married) Madame Tourvel but finds that he may not be able to keep his heart as separate from the affair as he had hoped.

(left to right) Robert Tobin and Sara Pavlak McGuire in AstonRep Theatre Company’s production of LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES by Christopher Hampton, based on the novel by Choderlos de Laclos and directed by Charlie Marie McGrath

 

The show’s design is exquisite, with rich colors and lush fabrics draping both the actors and the set. Original compositions by Clay Horath are a lovely addition to the play. But what really drives the production is the acting. Although Christopher Hampton’s adaptation does a nice job using language to connect the historical story to a modern audience, it is the strong acting work, guided by director Charlie Marie McGrath, that really fleshes out the characters and demands the audience’s investment in the events onstage.

(left to right) Sara Pavlak McGuire and Tim Larson in AstonRep Theatre Company’s production of LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES by Christopher Hampton, based on the novel by Choderlos de Laclos and directed by Charlie Marie McGrath

While the acting was strong all around, AstonRep ensemble member Sara Pavlak McGuire was a particular highlight. Her charismatic, confident, calculating Merteuil was reminiscent of Lena Headey’s Cersei Lannister but with less emotional damage. McGuire’s commanding stage presence made it clear who was really in control, even in her interactions with the closest thing she has to an equal, Valmont. Emma Ladji was charming and delightful in her role as Cecile, and Ann Marie White never once shied away from the emotional trauma Tourvel experiences at Valmont’s hands, playing every emotion to its fullest and keeping her deeply religious character from falling into easy stereotype.

(left to right) Alexandra Bennett, Sara Pavlak McGuire and Barbara Button in AstonRep Theatre Company’s production of LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES by Christopher Hampton, based on the novel by Choderlos de Laclos and directed by Charlie Marie McGrath

Les Liaisons Dangereuses is a fascinating look at the parlor games of Russian’s aristocratic class in the months before the Russian revolution. AstonRep makes excellent use of an intimate space and a strong ensemble to create a production that is as seductive and heartbreaking as its central characters. 

Location: The Raven Theatre (West Stage), 6157 N. Clark St., Chicago

Dates: Thursday, May 28 - Sunday, June 21, 2015

Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm; Sundays at 3:30 pm

Tickets: Tickets are available at astonrep.com or by calling 773.828.9129

Photos by Emily Schwartz.

Published on Jun 14, 2015

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