Tony Award nominee Laura Linney, known for playing the humane and constructive First Lady Abigail Adams in the recent HBO miniseries "John Adams," coolly calculates crueler 18th-century moves in the sex-and-power-themed Christopher Hampton play based on the scandalous 1782 novel by Choderlos de Laclos. Same decade as the Adamses, but different passions.
Hampton was Tony-nominated in the category of Best Play for the 1987 Broadway production. He is a two-time Tony winner for penning book and lyrics to the musical, Sunset Boulevard.
Previews for the limited run of Les Liaisons began April 12. Rufus Norris (Festen) directs the production on a Scott Pask set that offers walls of glassy French doors, an opaque mirrored floor, acres of billowing curtains that suggest rumpled bedding and a dominant crystal chandelier, studded with candles.
In pre-Revolutionary France (it's the decadent '80s), Linney plays widowed, malicious La Marquise de Merteuil, who is convinced she was born to dominate the male sex. Ben Daniels plays partner-in-crime Le Vicomte de Valmont, who does her bidding in order to get into her boudoir, in the new production of the 1985 Olivier Award-winning play (here billed as a dark comedy).
"The definitive battle of the sexes springs to life in this Tony Award-nominated classic by Christopher Hampton," according to Roundabout. "For long-time friends and occasional lovers Vicomte de Valmont (Daniels) and Marquise de Merteuil (Linney), love is simply a game of chess. But in a few false moves, they're about to find themselves locked in the ultimate checkmate. Filled with seduction, betrayal, and plenty of illicit passion, this dark comedy paints the pre-Revolutionary French aristocracy in all its cynicism and decadence." The cast also includes Tony nominee Siân Phillips (Marlene) as Madame De Rosemonde, Jessica Collins as Madame De Tourvel (Valmont's quarry), Mamie Gummer as Cecile Volanges (Valmont's conquest, at the request of La Marquise), Kristine Nielsen as Madame De Volanges (Cecile's mother), Benjamin Walker as Danceny (Cecile's young beau), Rosie Benton as Emile, Derek Cecil as Azolan, Kevin Duda as Footman and Jane Pfitsch as Maid. Tenor Duda and soprano Pfitsch provide the operatic soundtrack, as well, creating an eerie, sensual atmosphere.
(For the record, the production uses music from the Baroque period — arias or opera outtakes, plus a few secular cantatas. The composers include George Frideric Handel, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Louis-Nicolas Clerambault and Jean-Baptiste Lully, who wrote music for counter tenors of the period. There is no accompaniment; bells are used to give the singers their notes.)
The company also includes Delphi Harrington, Tim McGeever and Nicole Orth-Pallavicini.
The creative team includes Scott Pask (sets), Katrina Lindsay (costumes), Paul Arditti (sound), Paul Huntley (hair and wigs), Deborah Hecht (voice and speech coach), Rick Sordelet (fight director) and Donald Holder (lights). Arthur Gaffin is production stage manager. Jamie Greathouse is stage manager.
Hampton also penned the screenplay to the Academy Award-nominated 1988 film version, "Dangerous Liaisons," which starred Glenn Close under the direction of Stephen Frears (not to be confused with the 1989 Milos Forman film "Valmont," which starred Annette Bening and featured Siân Phillips in the role of Madame des Volanges).
Daniels (who earned the Olivier Award for the Royal National Theatre staging of All My Sons) has appeared on the London stage in Therese Raquin, The God of Hell, Tales From Hollywood, Naked, Waiting for Godot, Entertaining Mr. Sloane and more. He has been seen on television in "The State Within," "Elizabeth-The Virgin Queen," "Ian Fleming-A Life in Pictures," "Truth or Dare," and "Romeo and Juliet." Film credits include "Beautiful Thing," "Luna," "Doom" and "Madeleine." Daniels is appearing with the permission of Actors' Equity Association.
Linney, an Oscar nominee for her work opposite Philip Seymour Hoffman in the feature film "The Savages," enjoys both a stage and film career. Her recent Broadway work includes Sight Unseen (Best Actress Tony nomination), The Crucible (Best Actress Tony nomination) and Uncle Vanya. She has also appeared on stage in Honour, Holiday, Hedda Gabler and The Seagull. Her films include "You Can Count on Me," "Mystic River," "Kinsey," "Love Actually." "The Nanny Diaries," "Breach," "The Squid and the Whale," "The Life of David Gale," "The Truman Show" and the HBO version of "The Laramie Project," as well as HBO's "John Adams."
Tickets are available by calling Roundabout ticket services at (212) 719-1300, online at www.roundabouttheatre.org or at the American Airlines box office, 227 West 42nd Street. Ticket prices range from $56.25 to $101.25.
For more information visit www.roundaboutheatre.org.
Les Liaisons Dangereuses won the Olivier Award for Best Play in its 1985 London premiere prior to coming to Broadway.
Howard Davies directed the original 1987 Broadway production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses at the Music Box Theatre with Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan as the dueling duo. The work was nominated for the Best Play Tony Award; stars Rickman and Duncan were also Tony-nominated.