Thursday, January 12, 2006

 

The Huntington Theater is housed at Boston University, performing at the B.U. Theater where I did my undergraduate studies in design and designed my very first productions. Going there for Huntington's handsomely mounted, generally well-performed productions is very much like going home. I went back again last night for the press opening of "Les Liaisons Dangereuses," Christopher Hampton's adaptation of the famous, unique novel by Pierre Ambroise Fran├žois Choderlos de Laclos. Famous because the novel has had a major cultural influence, and unique because he never wrote anything other than this one novel in the form of a chain of letters passing among a group of nobles and their retainers on the very brink of the French Revolution.

De Laclos wrote in disgust of the morals and corruption of the nobility but was shocked to see them take enthusiastically to the novel as a kind of tribute to themselves. They delighted in its gossipy revelation of their private perversions, speculating with amusement on the possible models in society for each character and scandalous incident. Many of them fell to the guillotine only a couple of years after the book's publication. Choderlos de Laclos himself survived--in more ways than one. Not only did he live through the Terror into the Napoleonic era, his book became a literary influence. In the last several decades "Liaisons" has been adapted into at least three movies including the big one with John Malcovitch and Glenn Close, one or two ballets and an opera whose premiere in San Francisco was televised nationally.

The Huntington's production looked sensational in sets and costumes that daringly blended periods and styles. Costumes incorporated the panniers and wigs of the eighteenth century, the sexy curved profiles of the nineteenth, and the tailored lapels and sleeves of the twentieth. The cast wore them handsomely and lounged easily on the faux Louis XVI furniture and curved grand staircases that wouldn't have been out of place in a contemporary architect-designed mansion but seemes very 1785 in context.

As Valmont, Michael T. Weiss (the would-be boyfriend in the movie "Jeffrey" and a double character in "Dark Shadows") had the elegance and smooth baritone voice of an ideal seducer, but I had some problems with the general tone of the direction. There was much too much playing for laughs in a farcical manner. These people are essentially malignant, their polished manner underlaid with cruelty and inhumanity. There should be laughter, but laughter tinged with uneasiness, the kind of laughter the audience shares with Richard III as he confides his evil plans and makes them co-conspirators. Young Cecile is naive--painfully naive--but not simply a stereotypically dumb blonde, for example. Perhaps the cast will find some of the undercurrent of moral rot as the run progresses. Right now there's more real entertainment value than depth to this production.

Speaking of moral rot, at age 75 the Bishop of Detroit has come forward to reveal his own sexual molestation as a fifteen year old seminary student by a priest on the faculty. He has done so in support of legislation that will hold pedophile priests more easily liable to civil prosecution. He's the highest-ranking clereic in the U.S. ever to come forward and reveal having been abused.

I found this comment to Tuesda's post from creamedhoney last night:
"Will--in my home province of Alberta they have had wind turbines installed near Pitcher Creek since 1993. The 145 turbines produce enough electricity to meet the needs of 35,000 homes. A recent survey of residents showed that 96% strongly supported the wind energy industry.

"P.S. Pincher Creek in SW Alberta is not too far from Ft. Macleod where "Brokeback Mountain" was filmed."

Thank you for further proof that you don't have to step very far at all outside U.S. borders to find evidence of rational thought and intelligent approach to pressing social and environmental problems. I hope you'll visit here often.

George W. Bush Inanity of the Day:
"We have a firm commitment to NATO, we are a part of NATO. We have a firm commitment to Europe. We are a part of Europe."
- George W. Bush

First, there's a little thing called the American Revolution; second, there's the Atlantic Ocean. And wasn't Europe of no interest to you and your gang anymore?

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