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Marie Antoinette

  • Theater, Drama
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Marie Antoinette. Soho Rep (see Off Broadway). By David Adjmi. Directed by Rebecca Taichman. With Marin Ireland, David Greenspan, Steven Rattazzi. Running time: 1hr 30mins. No intermission.

Marie Antoinette: in brief

Marin Ireland plays the doomed queen of France in an unconventional, bitingly comic play on history by the subversively minded David Adjmi (Elective Affinities, 3C). The talented ensemble cast, directed by Rebecca Taichman, includes David Greenspan, Steven Rattazzi, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Karl Miller and Jen Ikeda.

Marie Antoinette: theater review by David Cote

“Sometimes I feel like a game that other people play without me,” says a broody Marie Antoinette (Ireland), strolling the grounds at Versailles. The pampered queen will have more time to muse on identity and social position before she is beheaded in front of a frenzied revolutionary mob. Marie will languish for months in prison, trying to parse her translation from national fashion icon to despised whore. In that she is similar to many a jailed stage aristocrat—Richard II, the Duchess of Malfi, Elizabeth I—trying to make sense of a precipitous fall. In David Adjmi’s jagged yet elegant historical riff, we find ourselves disgusted by this vain, selfish parasite—but also horrified by her persecution. This tough-minded play doesn’t offer a middle path.

As a symbol of empty celebrity and hyperconsumerist excess, the French monarch maps to our own times: Pick the pop princess or sex-tape-releasing fameball du jour. But Adjmi complicates the satire by imbuing his doomed protagonist with intellectual vibrancy and genuine compassion, however fleeting and inchoate. He never mocks Marie, even if she doesn’t know who Homer is or the extent to which she is hated. In fact, she’s a lot like us well-heeled liberal Westerners: full of good intentions but part of the problem. We are Marie, and we are the Terror.

Rebecca Taichman, who directed the play’s lavish premiere at Yale Rep last year, has expertly scaled it back to a stark 90-minute version in a wide, shallow space, with harsh sound and light eruptions. The fine supporting cast includes David Greenspan as a prophetic sheep, Steven Rattazzi as the ineffectual King Louis XVI and Chris Stack as Marie’s lover and confidant. Ireland, gorgeous in a poufy red dress and worried wig, gives one of the rawest and most mercurial performances I’ve seen from her, a symphony of tics, comic bluster, false starts and cascades of acid regret. You can slap her, strip her, hack off her hair. Still, her Marie rules.—Theater review by David Cote

THE BOTTOM LINE: History repeats as postmodern farce—and horror.

Follow David Cote on Twitter: @davidcote

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