“Marie Antoinette” at Yale Rep, through November 19

 

By Tom Nissley

There is a delightful and sugary production at Yale Rep this month, in the guise of David Adjmi’s play about the life of Marie Antoinette (called “Marie Antoinette”), directed by Rebecca Taichman. Apart from telling you that it’s a very fast moving show that will keep your attention over and over and over again, I would also be remiss if I didn’t point out that you’ll keep thinking about it for some days after you’ve seen it -- perhaps go to your library to seek out somebody’s writings about this young queen of France -- and even perhaps to advise you to look up whatever historical notes you have access to before you go.

 

It’s not because Adjmi has presented a revisionist formula for the heroine; in fact he has stayed very close to what is known about the little Austrian who arrived, at the age of fifteen (!) on the doorstep of Versailles to be married to the Dauphin Louis Auguste. They were too young. In fact the play puts a spotlight on how much too young they were, playing roles like you and I do for short moments at costume parties all the time, while being expected to confirm the style for all of moneyed France and Paris.

 

Within four short years Louis’ father died and he became King Louis XVI; Marie was the Queen; they still had no children; she revised the gardens and made a creative life for herself raising sheep on the lawns by the Petit Trianon.

 

What you may find striking is that Adjmi and Taichman have emphasized Marie’s youth and, um...spontaneity, in a way that puts any formal constructs far to the side, getting to her humanity in a style that could be construed as pure modern. When the end arrives, you will feel compassion for the young woman who literally lost her head at the age of 37, and enjoy the confusion of dreams of her youth and her sheep as she prepares to die.

 

Credits for the actors go of course to Marin Ireland (Marie Antoinette) who is constantly on stage, to Steven Rattazzi (Louis XVI), to Ashton Woerz (the Dauphin), to Jake Silberman (Axel Fersen), whose stage presence was perfect for his role of the almost lover, and to David Greenspan (the Sheep), who orchestrated and gave voice to the pet sheep in Marie’s garden. All of the servants and intimates of the queen performed magnificently. If you’ve wanted one to take home, you’ll have a hard time selecting.

 

Matt Acheson designed the sheep. Riccardo Hernandez designed the intriguing sets, and Christopher Akerlind supplied the lighting. Matt Hubbs supplied the sound. The costumes were designed by Gabriel Berry, and the choreography by Karole Armitage. J David Brimmer was the fight director. And if there is to be an ensemble award for “Marie Antoinette,” I’d say it could go the actors but it should go to the team that put all the color, lights, fights, puppets, and dreams together in this very concentrated production under Rebecca Taichman’s direction. It is a string of jewels, fit for a queen.

 

Go to see it if you possibly can. www.yalerep.org for more information, or call 203-432-1234.

 

Tom Nissley for the Ridgelea Reports on Theatre

November 9, 2012

 

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