What do pop stars Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus have in common with the former Queen of France, Marie Antoinette? Quite a bit, if you ask Marin Ireland, currently playing the doomed matriarch in David Adjmi's play at Soho Rep.
Ireland (reasons to be pretty, The Big Knife) has a long history with the titular character, having begun readings of the play in 2007. In the six years since, as she continued to perform the role of the girl from Austria who found herself married at age 14 to Louis-Auguste of France, Ireland noticed frequent similarities between Antoinette and the young celebrities whose names filled the headlines.
Written in 20th-century colloquial language, and with the actors dressed in modern-day costumes, the dialogue in Marie Antoinette sometimes feels more reminiscent of an episode of "Girls" than that of 18th century France — especially when Antoinette tearfully reminisces with her friends about being homesick for Austria and how isolated she feels in France.
"It's about a girl who went through a lot of trauma in her childhood and felt really abandoned and was suddenly put in the position of impossible responsibility without being prepared for it at all," Ireland said of the play. "And [she] was sort of relentlessly punished for her ignorance, even though there was nobody around who really helped her or cared about her."
Antoinette, who was crowned Queen at age 19, despite having little education or preparation for the responsibility, was criticized for her lavish spending and luxurious lifestyle while the people of France suffered famine and poverty. She and her family were eventually imprisoned in 1792, before being beheaded at the guillotine in 1793.
While she was in power, Antoinette was forced to endure rumors about her love life, including whispers of affairs with both men and women.
"I feel like Marie really felt like the more she could engage with her public who disapproved...the more she could explain herself, the better," Ireland said. "I feel there's that loop she was stuck in for a very long time, trying to respond to the criticism directly, which I do feel like happens a lot now. And, people get confused that if something goes wrong and suddenly everybody's mad at them, in this culture, that they have to take to social media and have some kind of public interaction. I feel like that's so dangerous for anyone to do."
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