Thursday, September 18, 2014

Play review: "Marie Antoinette"

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Last night I went to see a performance of "Marie Antoinette" at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre in DC. I've always enjoyed the story of Marie Antoinette (well...what little I actually know about her: the luxury and glamour of royalty, particularly the fashion and the hairdos!), so of course I bought tickets to see the play. My first (and perhaps only) real taste of Marie Antoinette was the Kirsten Dunst film, which I thought was absolutely beautiful.

And I thought the play was quite good! The play opens to show the queen (played by Kimberly Gilbert) with two courtiers/friends, lounging by the hot tub/pool and discussing fashion and the petty way the peasants are acting toward the royals. The scene is very funny and light, with the women walking around like runway models and posing every once and a while for the paparazzi. Then it goes on to show the (sexual) issues between Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI and the problem that no heir exists to take over the throne. Throughout the first act the audience gets to know Marie Antoinette as a confused woman-child: she was taken from her pastoral childhood home in Austria to wed the French king as a teenager, and now has serious insecurity issues due to the fact that she is always in the public eye and cannot please the French people. Although we know Marie Antoinette as a frivolous woman who cared more about her clothes and hair than the starving people of France, this play allows you to feel sympathy for her, seeing the story from her point of view.

The second act is much more dark, now that the revolution/rebellion has begun and the royal family has had to leave Versailles. They run away and are staying with some farmers they come across during their travel, and it is all downhill from there. Throughout the story Maria Antoinette is visited by a talking sheep, the symbolism of which is over my head but still is very moving (the actress who plays the sheep, Sarah Marshall, is very good!). This dark ending is the part of her history that I don't know much about, but we are shown that she was kept as a prisoner for some time before finally being beheaded. A sad ending, but at least we all already knew about that.

With the modern twist on this story, I was afraid that I might be offended or turned off by the performance (see my blog post about the Synetic Theater's take on "The Picture of Dorian Gray"). But even with the warning that the performance would include "nudity [and] simulated illicit drug use," I thought everything was done quite tastefully. The nudity was minor, the "simulated" drug use actually smelled pretty real, and the foul language was only used when appropriate. My prudish side was satisfied.

I definitely recommend this show! I will be returning to Woolly Mammoth for two more shows this season. Click here for a list of their 2014-2015 season shows.

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