Le Boudoir de Marie-Antoinette

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 Marie-Antoinette arrive au Curio Theatre

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Jennifer Summerfield as Marie Antoinette and Brian McCann as King Louis. Photo by Rebecca Gudelunas


Curio Theatre Company brings audiences into a modern look at one of history’s most controversial figures. David Adjmi’s Marie Antoinette kicks off 2018 for the West Philadelphia theatre. This contemporary take on the infamous French Queen runs February 14-March 10. Directed by Brenna Geffers, this engaging story of excess, artifice, and revolution opens Friday, February 16 at 8 p.m.


In Adjmi’s contemporary take on the young famed queen of France, Marie is a frivolous, extravagant prisoner of circumstance. She is a confection created by a society that values extravagance and artifice. As the revolution brews and the people of France sour to the excess and artifice that define her life, they prepare to place her head firmly on the chopping block. In this dark and humorous tale, Marie consorts with kings, lovers, and the occasional sheep, while the chants of “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité!” filling the streets grow ever louder. Marie Antoinette holds a mirror up to our contemporary society that might just be entertaining itself to death.


Brenna Geffers makes her Curio Theatre Company directorial debut. Jennifer Sumerfield is Marie Antoinette with Curio Company member Brian McCann as King Louis XVI. The ensemble, who portray several people who circle around them includes: Company Member Rich Bradford, Jessica Delcanton, Twoey Truong, and Liam Mulshine.


“It is funny and dangerous and nimble. It is absolutely about right now. I have found myself thinking a lot about the French Revolution in the past year. I am sure I am not the only one’; the inequality of wealth is a huge issue right now. I have also been questioning a lot of my own preconceptions about the complicity of wealthy white women in the power structures they operate in. What kind of pity or unearned empathy does our society extend to them?,” said Geffers. “Looking at voting patterns of white women in the last year has made me realize how wrong so many of my assumptions have been. I often hear the question ‘why would these women vote against their own self-interests?’ and I wonder – are they actually? Or rather, are they actually voting to protect privilege. Marie Antionette can be a fascinating lens to look at this question through. What kind of culpability are we willing to assign privileged women? How dangerous are princesses? What would Melania and Ivanka do?”


Most performances are Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. Industry Night is Monday, February 19 at 8 p.m. All performances are held at Curio’s home in the Calvary Center for Culture and Community at 4740 Baltimore Ave. Tickets cost $15-$30 and are available online www.curioutheatre.org or by phone at 215-921-8243.
http://delcoculturevultures.com/2018/01/29/marie-antoinette-arrives-in-february-at-curio-theatre/
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“Nobody speaks of revolution here.” That line blasts off like a bullet from Chekhov’s gun in the opening moments of Marie Antoinette, David Adjmi’s take on French revisionist history at Curio Theatre Company. But the ensuing 90 minutes offer little fresh insight on this much-dramatized monarch, and even less perspective on the political upheaval she precipitated.

Curio’s stylish production — directed by Brenna Geffers and performed on Paul Kuhn’s gilded, ornate set — cannot overcome the tonal imbalance in Adjmi’s writing. The first act unspools like an extended sketch-comedy skit.

Marie (Jennifer Summerfield) winks to the audience after making a joke about cake. She rages at the suggestion that she’s secretly a lesbian. She expresses indignation that her effete husband, King Louis XVI (Brian McCann, winning in a one-joke role), would rather fiddle with his beloved clocks than give her a child.

Hints of nationalistic turmoil are mostly kept to the periphery or consigned to projected narrative titles that flash between scenes. (At the performance I attended, the texts were often cut off.) Adjmi references the many misogynistic criticisms leveled against the queen — she’s described as “some bitch from Austria who gives everyone blowjobs” — but fails to address them in any substantial way. Marie describes herself as “so misunderstood,” but Summerfield’s largely facile treatment rarely suggests an untapped inner life.

Meet the monarchs

The play takes on more emotional weight in the second act, when Marie and Louis have largely been stripped of power. But Adjmi still doubles down on his humorous impulses. The couple’s failed attempt to escape at Varennes unfolds like a comic caper; we never fully grasp their last-ditch desperation or the sting of their defeat. The drama turns resolutely dark in the final scenes, but by then you’re left wondering to what end.

Unlike Sofia Coppola’s 2006 filmic treatment — which characterized the monarchs as patsies deserving pure sympathy — Adjmi seems unsure of how to present Marie. The play covers a wide narrative expanse, from 1776 to 1793, but the character shows little evidence of growth or maturity.

As her death approaches, Adjmi imbues Marie with a level of self-awareness largely missing from the earlier scenes; for the first time, we understand her as a victim of circumstance rather than a malicious gorgon. But he also positions her as the French Revolution’s answer to Joan of Arc, which seems entirely unearned.

Geffers largely ties the play’s loose ends together, and the strong ensemble — Rich Bradford, Jessica DelCanton, Twoey Truong, and Liam Mulshine — individuate more than a dozen roles. But some of Geffers’s more outré choices, like having a life-sized doll stand in for the Dauphin of France (voiced by Mulshine), are too clever by half. DelCanton occasionally appears as a sentient sheep who serves as Marie’s spirit animal; although she meets the challenge with tongue-in-cheek wit, it’s a too-literal representation of the lamb-to-slaughter metaphor.

Both the historical Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution were nothing if not complicated. But in Adjmi’s telling, they’re often reduced to surface-level stereotypes. Marie Antoinette ultimately resembles the sugary confections Marie munches on in better days: sometimes tasty, sometimes dense, but mostly empty.
http://www.broadstreetreview.com/theater/curio-theatre-company-presents-david-adjmis-marie-antoinette#
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Curio Theatre’s ‘Marie Antoinette’: Is anybody in there?

By Howard ShapiroFebruary 21, 2018


This year marks the 225th anniversary of Marie Antoinette’s execution by guillotine, though she continues to live in the public imagination. Not one, but two locally produced plays currently feature her. The excellent first one, “The Revolutionists,” soon ends its run at Theatre Horizon in Norristown; the second, “Marie Antoinette,” recently opened at Curio Theatre in West Philadelphia.

Both shows portray her as a clueless, super-pampered dummy — maybe we take heart, somehow, in categorizing her as a woman with little or no sense. Some of that is justified: As “Marie Antoinette” makes clear, she had about as much disdain for her husband, King Louis XVI, as she had for the legions of French citizens starving outside her gilded walls — if she considered them at all.

But aside from her love of frill, fashion, food and wild spending, “Marie Antoinette” doesn’t take us beneath the surface. There’s a real woman under all that satin finery – there has to be. A child of Austrian royalty, she was only 15 when her family sent her to marry the man who would become King Louis XVI four years later. Three of her four babies didn’t survive their childhoods. Yet the theatrical persona being now invented for her – “Marie Antoinette” was written in 2012 – never really considers her heart and renders her too shallow to have one.

David Adjmi, the American who wrote “Marie Antoinette,” does give us plenty of history to ground the scenes through her life – although the night I saw the play, Curio botched that nice touch by messing up the projections of the history onto the rear of the stage. They were cut off in the middle of sentences as if someone lopped them – hey, folks, we realize this is “Marie Antoinette,” but let’s hold the chopping until the play’s very last seconds.

Adjmi turns Antoinette’s superficiality in the first half of the play into a river of self-pity and denial in the second, when the deposed queen is an imprisoned and bewildered Marie-come-lately to serious introspection. What the play does, it does well, in detailing the aspects of Antoinette’s behavior that made her increasingly despicable to the everyday French. The production by director Brenna Geffers picks up on that aspect, underscoring the entitled attitudes of the queen and her court.

Jennifer Summerfield plays Marie with the controlling, sometimes defiant tone of a fighter, even if she’s battling France’s unstoppable, bloody march into democracy. The portrayal gives the queen a magisterial air, and it makes her something like a tragic figure in her downfall. Brian McCann’s King Louis is a loser – which, history demonstrates, he basically was. In Adjmi’s script, the king is also an overgrown adolescent, which feels like a silly overstatement, but in McCann’s portrayal is at least funny.

The production is handsome – lit by Tim Martin to fit the changing mood of the plot and staged on Paul Kuhn’s impressive structural frame for a royal court, then a prison. Aetna Gallagher’s stately costumes give the women in the cast a regal poise. What’s missing, particularly for Antoinette, is a human depth.
https://whyy.org/articles/curio-theatres-marie-antoinette-anybody/

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