Monday, November 12, 2012

"MARIE ANTOINETTE" TRAVELS INSIDE THE WIGGED HEAD OF A QUEEN

HANNAH CABELL, MARIN IRELAND AND POLLY LEE     PHOTO T.CHARLES ERICKSON

Marie Antoinette was a little girl who liked to play dress-up, an Austrian princess who married at age fifteen to Louis XVI, soon to be the King of France.  This alliance of countries brought a sheltered and naive girl, beautiful and gifted in musical skills, to a great position of power at only nineteen.  Her mercurial reign was legendary, filled with destructive rumors and scandals, marked by turbulence, at a time when the peasants of France rose up and demanded a voice of equality and democracy.

To enter the royal palaces of the queen, to follow this Hapsburg princess from beloved to reviled to her dramatic end at the guillotine, be entranced by the world premiere of "Marie Antoinette" by David Adjmi at the Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, a co-production with the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, until Saturday, November 17.

Marin Ireland delightfully embodies Marie, at once frivolous and impetuous, petulant and indulgent, a butterfly who loved parties and gambling and dressing up in haute couture in the most extravagant of styes.  She was in many ways the opposite of her husband, played to perfection by a reclusive and indecisive Steven Rattazzi, who would have been happier tinkering and playing with his collection of clocks than running a vast empire.

Marie's brother Joseph (Fred Arsenault) comes to court to counsel the couple when, after seven years of marriage, they have not produced an heir.  His advice works and their first child, a daughter, is born a year later.  Rumors that Marie is having an affair with the Swedish diplomat Axel Fersen (Jake Silbermann) does not endear her to her subjects, especially as they blame her and her excessive lifestyle for their poverty.

When the peasants revolt and massacres cause blood to run red in the streets, the opulent life of the royal family is doomed. Rebecca Taichman directs this personally revealing tour of one of the most exalted and vilified personages of history, the symbol of the end of European monarchies.  Riccardo Hernandez crafts a fascinating set to showcase the action while Gabriel Berry's costumes are a fashion parade of frivolous fun.

For tickets ($20-96), call the Yale Repertory Theatre, 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven at 203-432-1234 or online at www.yalerep.org.  Performances are Tuesday to Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Saturday at 2 p.m. and selected Wednesdays.

Can a princess, born into a life style where she had one hundred and twenty-four kitchens in her Austrian palace, find happiness in a political alliance engineered by her mother?  Will she heed the warnings of the sheep (David Greenspan) as she plays at being Little Bo Peep?  Let this fascinating tale capture the tragedy of a girl born to be a queen whose butterfly wings are traumatically clipped.

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