Machiavellian machinations and amoral manipulation are at the heart — the dark heart — of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Christopher Hampton's 1985 adaptation of Choderlos de Lacos' famous novel. The nasty tale of two French aristocrats conspiring to ruin a virgin's reputation and perhaps destroy each other is now fodder for Philadelphia's risk-taking and ever serious minded Wilma Theatre.
Co-artistic director Jiri Zizka directs the work, based on an epistolary novel that served as the basis for several films, the best known being Milos Forman's "Valmont" and the John Malkovich, Glenn Close and Uma Thurman starrer, "Dangerous Liaisons," for which Hampton wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay.
Said Zizka in a statement, Hampton's innately theatrical adaptation fascinates me because it expresses perfectly the true spirit of the novel. It creates a delightful and dangerous world where lives are made or ruined with a flick of a well-turned phrase."
Hampton's Tony-nominated play began previews Nov. 21, opened Nov. 28 ane ends its run Dec. 23 at the Wilma. As of Dec. 19, the evening performances Dec. 21 and 22 were sold out, as is the final matinee on the 23rd.
Designing the production are Dawn Robyn Petrlik (set), Janus Stefanowicz (costumes) and Jerold R. Forsyth (lighting). Lise Bruneau, Richard Thompson and Peg Small lead the cast, which also features Nancy Boykin, Mary Kathrine McCool, Darren Bevill, David Bardeen, Adrienne Dreiss, Kristen Quinn and Matthew McIver. For tickets ($26-$39) and information on Les Liaisons Dangereuses at the Wilma Theatre, located between Broad and Spruce Streets in Philadelphia, call (215) 546-7824.
After the New Year, Dael Orlandersmith returns to the Wilma with Yellowman, Feb. 13-March 17, 2002. Blanka Zizka stages this tale of two innocent Southern soulmates who cope with race troubles and the sins of their parents. Orlandersmith's other works include Monster and Beauty's Daughter.
Closing the Wilma season, May 1-June 2, 2002, is the Philadelphia premiere of Indian Ink, set in 1930s colonial India. Stoppard's West End play concerns the dual stories of an ailing English poetess who has a complex relationship with an Indian artist and the American scholar researching her story with the help of her sister. Critics have noted the play's similarity to Stoppard's Arcadia, which has present-day scholars plumbing the past for elusive truths. Other Stoppard works include the screenplay for the Oscar-winning "Shakespeare in Love" and this-past season's Tony nominated drama, The Invention of Love.
For subscription information for the Wilma Theater, Broad & Spruce Streets in Philadelphia, call (215) 546-7824.
— By David Lefkowitz