LAKEWOOD — With their production of David Adjmi’s play Marie Antoinette, The Edge Theater continues to live up to its name. The show is edgy, theatrical, absurd at times and deadly serious at times, delivered on a lovely set with wonderfully outrageous costumes, and includes a virtuoso acting performance. While there were interesting, entertaining, and powerful moments throughout, and much that make seeing it worthwhile, there were some weaknesses as well.
Most of us will go into the theater knowing the story of France’s last queen prior to the revolution, and we know that the play will not end well for the title character. Playwright David Adjmi tells the story in a very theatrical and unorthodox manner. The setting is a blend of the modern and the historical, using contemporary language and situations. The opening scene is a fashion show, complete with a rock soundtrack, a runway, and photographers’ cameras clicking away. Marie and her companions talk flippantly of nothing, but it is clear that Marie sets the tone, and it is not advisable to disagree with her. Bits of different pieces of the story appear, including an odd but entertaining sheep character challenging her view of the world but also helping her understand it. And as the world begins to collapse around her and husband King Louis, things get more and more serious. In the second act, everything falls apart, and Marie begins a disturbing descent into madness. Playwright Adjmi’s writing perfectly captures the shallow disconnected reality of Marie’s life at court and her relationship with Louis, also providing a striking juxtaposition with our own contemporary world. The serious scenes are well written, too, disturbing and harsh, but for me, the second act went on too long. It was almost as if the play wanted to revel in the misery and anguish, and kept at it longer than needed to advance the story.
It is always hard to know how much of what we see on stage is in the script and what is specific to this production, but director Robert Kramer worked hard to make the absurd world of this play internally consistent across all the design elements, the formalized blocking, and the superficial interactions. Kramer pushed limits on both ends of the spectrum, going all out for the superficial theatricality in the first act, and the raw depths of emotion in the second. Much of the time this works well, and the contrast between the two is effective.
Missy Moore gives a virtuoso performance as Marie. Moore covers the flippant and funny material well, but also draws us into her madness and pain later on. It is hard to feel sympathy for the plight she brings on herself, but through Moore’s performance, we understand who she is and why she does some of what she does. Christian Mast counterbalances Moore nicely as Louis, childlike and weak, but with occasional fierceness as reality closes in. As the Sheep, Ryan Goold is odd and disturbing, at times affectionate and supportive, and at times brutally cruel. Samara Bridwell and Rachel Bouchard capture the flattery and fear of high society well, both emulating and at the same time fearing Marie. The rest of the cast, Ben Feldman, Brian Landis Folkins, and Jihad Milhem cover various roles well, but did not have a lot of substance to work with in their portrayals.
The technical design elements are phenomenal, all providing strong support for the overall style of the production. Justin Lane’s set includes huge clockworks on the walls, and a bold runway piercing the acting space from upstage to downstage center. Sean Mallary’s lighting design enhances and supports Lane’s scenery, and reinforces the superficial styling of the opening act. Kenny Storms designed both the projections, which add to the sense of place nicely, and the sound, which enriches the theatricality of the earlier scenes and adds depth throughout. The costumes, designed by Annie Kaup, with assistance from Alison Alter, are a wonderful combination of stylized high fashion and a historical feel. As the story progresses, the clothing (especially Marie’s) is transformed, bit by bit, into more simple, common, and conservative dress.
This play is about Marie and how the world changed around her as it collapsed. The contrasts with today’s world are clear, from the entertainment world where everyone emulates and also hates the icons, to the political world where our leaders don’t seem to understand the problems facing real people. I generally like unusual and theatrical productions, and there was a lot here to like. But I didn’t connect with any of the characters as much as I would have liked to, and the second act just went on too long. Even so, if you like the unusual, and appreciate skilled acting and design, I would still recommend this show.
If you go…
Marie Antoinette runs through November 13 at The Edge Theater, 1560 Teller Street in Lakewood, just north of Colfax. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8:00 pm, and Sundays at 6:00 pm. Tickets are $ 28. For information and reservations call 303-232-0363 or visit www.theedgetheater.com. Next up for The Edge is Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge, opening December 2. The Edge’s Season 7 opens with Lanford Wilson’s Burn This on Jan 13, followed by The Nance, then Misery. Marie Antoinette includes adult language and situations, and is not recommended for young children.
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