Monday, January 30, 2012

"Dangerous Liaisons" by Torch Theater at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage

Have I mentioned how much I love the Minneapolis Theatre Garage?  I think it's the best theater deal in the Twin Cities.  For $20 cash at the door (and free parking) you get to see some great theater by small but talented theater companies.  Everything I've seen there has been worth the money, and much more!  Last week I saw Dangerous Liaisons by Torch Theater, and it was no exception.  I'd never seen the play (aka Les Liaisons Dangereuses) or the 1988 movie before so I was largely unfamiliar with the story, if not the general concept.  It's a deliciously wicked story; two friends cruelly manipulate people for their own amusement and benefit, with no regard to the consequences for their victims.  In the end everyone loses.

Stacia Rice (Torch Theater's Artistic Director) is excellent as La Marquise de Mertueil, the widow who plays these wicked games.  What she doesn't want anyone to see is that she does it in self-defense, to keep herself from being hurt or used.  And as a woman in 18th century France, it's the only power she has.  Her friend and partner in these games is Le Vicomte de Valmont (John Middleton, also excellent), an 18th century Barney Stinson.  (Or rather, Barney Stinson is a modern day Vicomte.)  He knows exactly the right things to say and do to get seemingly any woman into bed.  It's a game for him, and he always wins because he doesn't play fair.  He sets his sights on the pious married woman Madame de Tourvel (Mo Perry in a heartfelt and moving performance), and unintentionally falls in love with her.  But that's only part of their scheme; things get more complicated and don't quite work out the way they had planned. The Marquise is left alone to crumple sadly and beautifully into a heap in her full skirts.

The supporting cast is also excellent, even those playing the servants who don't have a lot to do except smirk as they're changing sets between scenes.  The stage is as deep as I've ever seen it at the garage; usually it's much shallower but they must have opened it up to allow for more space for the bed and period furniture.  The costumes (designed by Rich Hamson) are rich and luscious enough to make you drool (see the photo above), including matching hats and coats for the dresses.  Perhaps my favorite feature of the play is the live music that's played between scenes.  Most of the singing is done by two members of the ensemble, Ann Michels and Matthew O'Connor Riehle, who also plays the lute and other period instruments.  They sing various songs in English and French (including "Alouette"), and it's really quite lovely, sometimes heartbreakingly so.

I'm a little late with this one so it's only playing for another week.  Check it out if you want a great cheap night at the theater.

Celebrity Sightings
This is a good one, friends!  I got to the garage in plenty of time to pick out a good seat.  After I got settled I noticed that three seats down from me was a sign that said "Reserved for Sally Wingert."  And next to her was "Reserved for Dominique Serrand."  Wow, that's like Minnesota theater royalty!  Sure enough, they came in and watched the show.  Sally will soon be appearing in Crashing the Party at Mixed Blood Theatre, and Dominique's theater company with Steven Epp, The Moving Company, will be presenting a new work at the Lab Theater in March.