Xeitgeist ~ the spirit of the event
by Melinda Darlington-Bach


Porchlight Teatre CompanyThe current al fresco offering from the Porchlight Theatre Company is a tantalizing, albeit wicked evening presentation of the play Dangerous Liasions.

Set prior to the upheaval of the French Revolution, Les Liasions Dangereuses is taken from the 1782 novel by Choderlos de Laclos of the same name. The book, considered an epistolary novel, was composed of the fictional correspondence between the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicompte de Valmont which serve to drive the decadent and amoral plot forward.

Due to a sense of aristocratic entitlement and ennui, the two ex-lovers exchange power by participating in cruel and humiliating sex games. Beautifully staged by award-winning directors, Ken Sonkin and Ann Brebner, in an 18th century jewel box drawing room designed by Ron Krempetz, the audience experiences the deceit and crumbling relationships right before our eyes.

Bay Area favorite, Anne Darragh, portrays Madame Mertueil as quite coquettish in her early scenes with Valmont, but as the play unfolds and "War!" is declared, she becomes cold and full of revenge. Nich Scholly as Valmont, shines as he becomes the charming and "dangerous" seducer. Molly Noble, one of the founders of Porchlight, gives a very strong and believable performance as Madame do Volanges, mother of Cecile, who becomes the pawn of Valmont and Merteuil.

What this play reflects so beautifully is the spirit of the Ancien Regime, where the ultra-royalist, Marie Antoinette and so many like her, had an intolerable ignorance of the suffering of the peasants and starving farmers. So far removed from the plight of the people, Marie created a "mock" farming village at Le Petit Trianon, insisting the sheep always were blue ribbons around their necks to create a pastoral setting far from the upheaval and poverty.

Enjoy a glimpse into the short-lived, complicated lives of the nobility presented expertly by Porchlight. In the spirit of the times pack a pique-nique and a blanket to revel in the machinations of the 18th Century cunning elite.

What starts as the best of times, disintegrates into tragedy and the worst of times. Let the games begin...

Photo: Cynthia Pepper

~ Marin Arts Magazine, July 2010