Marie Antoinette: The Color of Flesh

HANDY MAN Jones, left, receives a courtly kiss from Phillips.

HANDY MAN Jones, left, receives a courtly kiss from Phillips. Photograph: Nicole Szalewski

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

The opening of Marie Antoinette: The Color of Flesh plays like a Harlequin romance (bodice-ripping title and all): Alexis (Phillips), a young, maddeningly arrogant count, refuses to sit still for his portraitist, Elisabeth (Ives). He complains of being “forced into immobility while faced with your beauty,” to which she bluntly replies, “Why not just allow my beauty to strike you dumb?” To call these comic attempts lame would insult playwright Joel Gross’s intention: Like Elisabeth, Gross is simply using Alexis, painting light surface strokes until he can introduce the newly crowned Marie Antoinette (Jones).

With the queen in the picture, Gross adds definition, moving away from Elisabeth’s scheming, almost mechanical insolence, and translating Alexis’s rebellious bedroom behavior into that of a political activist off to aid George Washington. Even Marie sheds her adorable naïveté after having sex with the king (seven years into their marriage). This three-hander is basically an 18th-century love triangle, but it’s a clever one, with each participant enamored with both of the others.

The plot spans 20 years, and the script grows weighty, coating the characters’ charm with bland pronouncements about the French Revolution. Thankfully, director Robert Kalfin uses a set-changing footman to foreshadow this unrest, and even the dull penultimate scenes help to evoke nuance beneath the bluster. No flesh is bared—etiquette reigns supreme—but hearts, those colorful, lively things, certainly are.

St. Luke’s Theatre. By Joel Gross. Dir. Robert Kalfin. With Samantha Ives, Amanda Jones, Jonathan Kells Phillips. 2hrs 20mins. One intermission.