stage review

Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Ben Daniels, Laura Linney | Ben Daniels AND Laura Linney
Ben Daniels AND Laura Linney

Duped and duplicitous characters in various positions of sexual compromise yank floor-to-ceiling lengths of curtain material in a complicated choreography signifying moral decay in the Roundabout Theatre Company revival of Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Background players warble a distracting musical accompaniment. Laura Linney tries her pluckiest to shape her Marquise de Merteuil into a recognizably treacherous, sexually provocative, late 18th-century French noblewoman, while British import Ben Daniels throws himself into the star-turn role of the seductive Vicomte de Valmont with peacock gestures. But with danger in such short supply and coarse bawdy humor in such surfeit, a satisfying, cohesive interpretation of Christopher Hampton's venomously elegant 1986 drama is beyond the control of British director Rufus Norris.

Crazy-quilt character choices among the supporting cast add to the disarray: Sian Phillips plays Valmont's knowing aunt a la Oscar Wilde, Mamie Gummer chooses a TV comedy style as Valmont's trophy virgin, and Jessica Collins is stumped about how to play the crucially good lady who breaches Valmont's fortress of cynicism. The result: All the exquisite language that shot Alan Rickman to Broadway glory as Valmont when the production stormed New York in 1987 and branded the image of Glenn Close upon the brain in Stephen Frears' juicy 1988 movie adaptation is there — but dangerously little of the emotional power. (Tickets: dangerousonbroadway.com or 212-719-1300) C+

Originally posted May 12, 2008
Advertisement

From Our Partners