Archive for August, 2010|Monthly archive page

Dangerous. Liaisons.

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Sue and I saw Dangerous Liaisons at Stratford last weekend. Strong cast. Good direction. Thoroughly enjoyable (so much that not many noticed the 3-hour runtime).

One very good thing about such a play is the number of juicy roles for women. And all the divas that are the divas in the current Stratford company were there: Martha Henry, Seana McKenna, Sara Topham and Yanna McIntosh. And Tom McCamus was the natural choice for Valmont (he shares a certain rough sensuality with Malkovitch, the most recognizable fulfillment of the role).

The script is from playwright Christopher Hampton, who won an Oscar for the film screenplay that most of us know. There were definite assonances between the two, mostly to great effect (like the scene where Valmont opens Madame de Tourvel’s bodice as she struggles to breath against the emotions she’s feeling). Wisely, events such as Tourvel’s bloodletting and death are left off-stage. Weirdly, the play ends not with Marquise de Mertueil ostracism from society, but with the lurking hulk of the guillotine, implying a greater come-uppance from the many servants who witness all of the sordid machinations of their masters and mistresses.

McKenna had the right mix of libertine lust and barely perceptible hysteria for Merteuil. She was equal to McCamus in cadence and the timing between the two was bang on. Both are well aware of the value of waiting a beat.

Martha, whom I love, is able to convey the old Aunt as someone who is aware, particularly of Valmont’s true nature but also of the realities of life for a woman in her time: “Those who are most worthy of it are never made happy by it.” In other hands, the character can come across as a bit dottering, or purposefully ignorant, but the sense you get from this performance is that de Rosamonde herself is a survivor who’s played the game and chooses to stay above it.

While Mme de Volanges isn’t a critical role in the play, I was pleasantly surprised to see Yanna McIntosh, whose portrayal of Lady MacBeth I thoroughly enjoyed a season or two ago. And you should have seen the awesome hair she had going on.

McCamus’s Valmont is wonderfully vile, as we want him to be, but he is equal to the task of showing us the transformation and final surrender to this new feeling of “love” engendered by his relationship with de Tourvel. The “it’s beyond my control” scene was emotionally powerful, especially on his side (Topham may have gone a bit over the top on this one).

As for the younger characters, Bethany Jillard does a pretty good job as Cecelie Volanges, though the transition from convent girl to lusty wench didn’t convert well to the audience (though perhaps that has something to do with a scene in which Valmont suddenly thrusts a hand up her skirt in a way that looked much more like rape than seduction).

I wasn’t so hot on Michael Therriault as Danceny. He just seemed the most dissonant from what the character is supposed to be, and they gave him a definite buffoonery that made the later hook-up with Merteuil seem utterly absurd.

Audience reaction was a bit strange at times. The witty repartee between Merteuil and Valmont was understandable, but the huge guffaws as Valmont brought de Tourvel to the point of madness (where she basically surrenders her “soul” to her feelings for him) were awkward at best. We were watching a woman be corrupt in her religion and her morals, not a farcical boudoir romp. Same for the several scenes where Valmont thrusts his hand with little grace or good feeling up the skirt of more than one woman – meant to be a visual representation of a more aggressive thrust, the laughter was, I hope, just a way of coping with a decidedly unfunny assault.

All and still, it was a really great production, and made me glad again that we have such top-class entertainment nearby.



Saturday, August 21st, 2010

I forgot that I grabbed some awesome photos after a rain storm on the way home from the wedding last weekend. Love this one:

Big rays, teeny tiny farm

That’s how you do it

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Went to a cousin’s wedding this weekend in the true north. When you’ve got “dozens of cousins”, as the bride likes to say, never mind dozens of aunts and uncles, there’s only one way to do it:

  • Dress-up optional at the ceremony and dress-down mandatory at the reception.
  • Have the “I Do” part take 10 minutes and the eat and celebrate part take 12 hours.
  • BYOB and pot luck. There was enough food to feed dozens for days, and no one could complain that there weren’t enough options. At what other wedding could one get swedish meatballs, butterscotch squares, homemade chili and watermelon?
  • Have the great aunt do shots from a used bagpipe bladder then set her loose on the dance floor.
  • Play Johnny Cash, immediately followed by Biggie.
  • Bring the wedding party to the reception area via a pontoon boat on the river. Make them scurry to the back of the boat so as not to ground it on the shore.
  • Have the wedding part do boat races for halftime entertainment (the drinking kind, not the boating kind).
  • Have people bring tents that are pitched about 40 feet from the party tent. Easy lurching distance.
  • Have no bears attend the reception, or the pot luck table.

What’s your colour IQ?

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

I scored a 10, which means I can tell a dirty orange from a dirty dirty orange…

Quotable – solitude

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

Of all the conditions we experience, solitude is perhaps the most misunderstood. To choose it is regarded as irresponsible or a failure. To most it should be avoided, like an illness.

–Sarah Hall, How to Paint a Dead Man

I don’t trust people who can’t be by themselves. They are less likely to know themselves, more likely to be conventional, and more likely to be the type that will talk about banal things rather than enjoy a companionable silence if there are people about.

All the interesting people I know embrace solitude.