The Take Away 

  • Cool, evocative design

  • Deft direction with strong pace

  • Strong, professional performances

 

In Our Pockets

 

Cara

I’ve worked with Curio once and with Jennifer Summerfield several times before.

 

Plotz

I worked on a show that had Brian McCann in it, but we didn’t really interact. Other than that, I have no connection to the production.

 

Design

 

Plotz

Although I thought the overall design was a little too dark, I liked the way that Tim Martin’s lights played off of the set and costumes.

 

Cara

I also thought Chris Sannino’s sound was incredibly strong. The badminton game and the cutting of Marie’s hair were made so evocative through the small, repeated sounds. The use of the crowd sounds was really effective, too. It’s strange to me that occasional recorded sound effects worked so well but they really did. It was a cool risk that paid off.

 

Plotz

Aetna Gallagher’s costumes were inspired! I loved the sheer skirts that revealed the construction underneath. It was subtle and interesting. The panniers were fantastic. 

 

Cara

And the sheep! The fleecy headdress and satiny undergarments worked together to create this fantasy animal that made perfect sense in Marie Antoinette’s world.

 

Plotz

Marie’s few, subtle costume changes were so effective in showing her arc. I also liked the contrast of the sans-coulottes caps and striped pants.

 

Cara

This was another fantastic set from Paul Kuhn. He’s reliably fantastic. The use of mulch around the gilded square of Marie’s existence, and it’s later intrusion were another element that really subtly supported the story. A props designer isn’t mentioned, but I also think the rolling sheep, and tower of treats were perfect touches that didn’t clutter the story but were enough to create the world.

 

Performances

 

Cara

I’m still waiting for someone to explain to me why Jennifer Summerfield isn’t in everything. She and Corinna Burns continue to be our most lamentably underused actresses. This performance showed her full range. She’s funny, she’s sharp and she’s the master of a wide, full range in emotion, voice and physicality. A lesser actress could have gotten caught up in the iconic role. Summerfield’s Marie Antoinette is a real person, in turns detestable and sympathetic but never caricatured.

 

Plotz

I am equally excited about Jessica DelCanton. Her comedic timing is just incredible in this show. And the dangerous sex of the sheep character is frightening and grotesque. Therese was similarly layered and endearing.  The few brief scenes that showed their friendship stood in for an entire court life.

 

Direction

 

Plotz

Brenna Geffers nailed this show. She did such a good job with the pace, and with modulating between the funny and the reflective elements of the show that she hid what a complicated script it really was.

 

Cara

I agree. The script requires a very careful touch, and Geffers has it. She was very exacting with the emotional flow of the story, and let it lead. However, the direction was never indulgent. She runs a tight aesthetic ship.  And literally every stage picture that she created was compelling. What I like most about the way that Geffers built this show is that it’s very clearly done with audience experience in mind. She never assumes that she has us, and continues to work to bring us in.

 

Why This Play Now?

 

Plotz

I’ll admit that in the first act, I wasn’t really sure what this show was about. It seemed strange to create a whole work reinforcing what we already know and believe about Marie Antoinette. The performances and images were compelling enough to keep me interested, but I was cringing at some of the jokes (keeping our heads etc) and unclear about what the point was.

 

However, in the second act, Marie Antionette is a very human reflection on what it’s like to be on the wrong side of history. It’s sympathetic without being didactic, and I think that’s interesting.

 

Cara

And relevant. A few of Marie’s arguments on her own behalf sound just like my relatives blinking bewilderment at accusations of white privilege.

 

Plotz

Right. I think you could actually just have the second act of the show, and be fine.

 

Cara

Oh, I disagree. I think the first act is an important part of Marie’s journey, especially her idea of cutting spending and returning to nature. And besides that, I wouldn’t want to lose all of the good theater that Geffers sculpted in the first act.

 

One thought on “Marie Antoinette- Curio Theater

  1. I don’t know. I mean, I think it’s true that Marie’s position in the second act is very, or any way at least sufficiently, moving; of course it’s very moving to realize that your entire life has been upended and destroyed, that there’s no going back to it. Of course it’s moving to see your husband get executed even if you thought he was a dork, of course it’s moving to be separated from your child, believing he’s going to be executed. It’s interesting to see someone discover that they’re on the wrong side of history — but isn’t Marie Antoinette such a particular choice to illustrate those things? There were twenty million people living in France in the 18th century, so even if we’re limited to only historically real figures, there are people whose families were rent asunder by the events of the Revolution, children who were abused and died of disease, husbands executed. There were people who found themselves on the wrong side of the Revolution and the Reign of Terror for all sorts of good and bad reasons.

    The problem I had with this play is less about whether Marie’s story is illustrative and compelling, and a lot more about whose story gets to be told about times like this. The entire structure of insulating Marie from the human costs of history — reducing history to like a Cliff’s Notes history powerpoint, and so glossing over what it means to “send troops in” or to “deregulate the bread industry” or the extent of the monarchy’s political prisons and what it meant to be in them — is correct, in the sense that it makes Marie’s position more clear, but it also doesn’t seem fair to the many millions of people who lived through those events.

    Why is it, after all this time, it’s Marie that the story of the Revolution is about, and not the children who died of starvation because their families couldn’t afford bread? The shopkeepers killed by musketballs because they were too close to a riot? The assemblymen who went to prison for demanding the political freedom that we now take for granted?

    I mean, of course it’s bad that Marie Antoinette was executed for problems that weren’t her fault, but she also wasn’t the only one who died at the time for problems not of their own making — why is it that we’re always so eager to find a hero in her?

    There’s a quote from Mark Twain in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court that this sort of thing always reminds me of:

    THERE were two “Reigns of Terror,” if we would but remember it and consider it; the one wrought murder in hot passion, the other in heartless cold blood; the one lasted mere months, the other had lasted a thousand years; the one inflicted death upon ten thousand persons, the other upon a hundred millions; but our shudders are all for the “horrors” of the minor Terror, the momentary Terror, so to speak; whereas, what is the horror of swift death by the axe, compared with lifelong death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty, and heart-break? What is swift death by lightning compared with death by slow fire at the stake? A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by that brief Terror which we have all been so diligently taught to shiver at and mourn over; but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by that older and real Terror—that unspeakably bitter and awful Terror which none of us has been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves.

    There’s something about being in this place here and now and dwelling on a death that was unjust and cruel during a time when there were many cruel and unjust deaths, but also the one death that is most clearly an exculpation of the crimes countenanced by privilege, that seems to leave me feeling unsettled.

    Like

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