Sunday, May 11, 2014

Marie Antoinette: The Color of Flesh

Credit: Jasmin Hunter Photography
Marie Antoinette: The Color of Flesh is at the Player's Ring until May 25th!
More information/tickets HERE

After having a photo-shoot andinterview with the cast and director of Marie Antoinette: The Color of Flesh, last week, I believed myself prepared. I arrived on opening night to a transformed Player's Ring, the familiar black box now accommodates a country painting studio and an opulent chamber at Versailles, respectively. The first volley of scandalous talk was no surprise- I was prepared for a "confection", a scandalous story of court intrigue, love and betrayal. But from that point forward, I was unprepared.

Joel Gross's play on the intimate and complex relationships between a ladder-climbing painter, the innocent queen, and the fiery philanderer that first forms the bond between them, is so much more than tabloid indulgence. While certainly dripping with the language of flirtation, all giggling aside, these advances are always flavored with a dark undercurrent of consequence. There is weight to every decision made, no moonlight liaison is without its repercussions in the dangerous world of intrigue at court. As the characters age and the marzipan facade of Versailles becomes consumed at the edges, the outside world boils over into the lives of even the most privileged and the lifelong machinations of every player in the game are torn to shreds in the oncoming storm of

This play rests on the impressive shoulders of its three players. The sheer number of lines memorized to bring this forgotten sort of tete-a-tete to the stage is staggering, but the leads handled the task with fortitude and success. They thoroughly melted into their parts, completing the picture begun by the talented set designer. Danica Carlson, as the conniving Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun, carefully avoids the tropes of the fallen and grasping woman. Without being shrill, she demonstrates vulnerability. Her steady hand and dedication to her character is a constant reminder that there are no villains in this piece, only human beings, long-suffering and often wrong. We see her ambition, her capacity for great love, and her fear. Most compelling is her relationship with the queen, a thing of such stark moving power that I am affected even now, as I write this.

The philandering Count Alexis de Ligne, played by Spotlight Award winner Knate Higgins is a familiar person. Swept up in the conviction of youth, he leaps into conflicts with half-informed ideas, feeling himself alone aware of the injustices of class at work in the darkness of Paris. There are not so many liberal arts students out there who cannot relate to that fire and sureness. Higgins convinces us that there is depth yet to Alexis and his transformation from a boy who believes there are horrors to a man who knows them personally is sensitive and believable.

Finally, Jennifer Henry brings us the portrait of Marie Antoinette that inspires the love and dedication of Le Brun and de Ligne with the passage of time. Her performance drives the veracity of all of the relationships that follow, moving from an innocent playing at royalty to a true Queen in a dank cell with great dexterity. She revives Marie Antoinette and gives her a second chance in the court of public opinion, a fitting homage to a young woman who was remarkably misunderstood, as she was never given any opportunities to understand.

Time passed so quickly inside the theatre, I was astonished first when intermission came and then again when it was the end. Through the complete dedication of the players and crew, I was absorbed into this world and exposed to its underbelly. Far more than confection, Back Alley Production's "Marie Antoinette: The Color of Flesh" is food for thought. This piece is sumptuously set, beautifully acted, and produced with sensitivity and love. Go to be entertained, but also challenged and deeply effected.

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