Marie Antoinette -- She Wasn't as Frivolous as She Seemed

By Bob and Karen Isaacs

Bob was under the weather, so my daughter-in-law and I saw the world premier of Marie Antoinette at the Yale Rep. The play which is both comic and touching was written by David Adjmi and directed by Rebecca Taichman.

 

We all have the heard the story of the frivolous and extravagant French queen who supposedly said "Let them eat cake" and was guillotined during the French Revolution.  As the program points out, the expression of "let them eat cake" occurred long before Marie Antoinette.

 

The show opens with the young and frivolous Marie with her ladies talking of shopping and fashion and hair styles. But we soon learn that it has been seven years of marriage and no off-springs and that her husband is more interested in his clock collection than either her or France. In a series of brief scenes we learn much more -- about the rising unrest, the enlightenment, and that Marie and Louis eventually have children. But as time goes on, Marie goes from being adored by the public to the object of intense hatred including scandalous pamphlets that accuse her of every type of perversity. Marie lives in a fishbowl in the court where every movement -- from dressing to eating -- is carefully observed.

 

The second act brings the revolution and Marie's imprisonment along with Louis and their child ending with their deaths.

 

Adjmi has created a Marie who, while silly and uneducated, is at times more wise than her dithering, indecisive husband. As the play goes on, with the help of the suburb performance of Marin Ireland as Marie, you begin to develop sympathy for this woman who was cast into a role and situation not of her own making. By the end, she has developed a dignity that you respect.

 

Steven Rattazzi, as Louis, captures the king's indecision and lack of understanding of the situation and Jake Silbermann plays Axel Fersen, a Swede who tries to guide Marie. Perhaps the most puzzling piece of the play is the role of David Greenspan as a talking sheep who provides a voice of reason at times during Marie's ordeal.

 

The set, costumes and sound effects -- several are startling -- help give you a sense of the place and time.

 

Marie Antoinette, a co-production with the American Repertory Theater, is at Yale Rep through Nov. 17. It is a fascinating play.

 

This review aired on WNHU, 88.7 fm and www.wnhu.net


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