Monday, January 09, 2006

Theater: Les Liaisons Dangereuses

As you can tell from my previous entries, I have devoted quite a bit of time to reading over the holiday break. Lots of time on planes--to KS and then to South Bend last weekend--is always a boost for my reading shelf. It was vital for me to connect with friends and places in South Bend. Thanks to all who made time for me! Currently I am between novels and spending my reading time on various literary magazines.

Of course one shouldn't squander away all the fun of Boston between the pages. Both of us enjoy the theater and so last night we went to see another piece by the Huntington Theatre Company (in residence at Boston University). The playby Christopher Hampton is based on the novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses written by Pierre Ambroise Francois Choderlos de Laclos and both published and set in 1782. The center of the plot are two sexually liberated upper-class French snobs who use the bedrooms of Paris and its environs as a playground for their own tortured "love" affair. They use other people's bodies as a way to show their emotional superiority. All of this depravity, or at least the cynical spirit of it all, captures the very reasons why the peasants revolted in the French Revolution in 1789 shortly after Laclos penned the original epistolary novel (his one and only novel).

I have to admit, the play appealed more to L.'s sensibilities than mine. I just never connected to any of the characters--either the acting or the writing left me cold. At times I was disgusted at the events, but I suppose that was the point. There was one scene that positively exasperated me. The old aunty gave the following bit of wisdom to a young niece: men are happy when they have feelings, women are happy when they cause others to have feelings. Is this true? Or worse, still true? L. found it witty and a classic period piece. True, the costumes (with a few exceptions) were well done and the staging was finely choreographed. It was well executed, but soap operas -- even dark ones-- have never been my style.

This might be a good novel to accompany a study of the French Revolution, however. You most often get poignant stories of the poor and this offers another perspective--a portrait of the poor in spirit.

The play runs through February 5th at The Huntington.

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