Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Wednesday, April 17

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr

« Amy Schumer Jazzes Up Constellation Talking 360° Video with GB's The Grid »

Theater Tue May 26 2015

The Aristocracy Will Bring on the Revolution in AstonRep's Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Photo by Emily Schwartz

AstonRep takes on the challenge of the slashing wit and amoral sexual tensions of the French drama Les Liaisons Dangereuses, in its new production at Raven Theatre. The play, adapted by Christopher Hampton from the 1782 novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, was set in France, just before the 1789 revolution. AstonRep translates it to 1917 pre-revolutionary Russia, where the aristocracy was considered equally decadent and susceptible to revolution.

The script is notable for the scintillating dialogue and cruel sexual tricks devised by its two leading characters, the Marquise de Merteuil (Sara Pavlak McGuire) and Vicomte de Valmont (Robert Tobin), who conspire to seduce and humiliate three people for their own amusement. McGuire is a devious and beautiful trickster, able to switch from kind and helpful to evil and demonic, as the situation requires. Tobin is almost her match as Valmont, but I really wanted his character to exhibit more menace. He is almost too, dare I say, nice.

The rest of the cast delivers the deliciously clever dialogue adequately as Merteuil and Valmont plot and carry out their various seductions and reversals. Director Charlie Marie McGrath could energize her cast to move the 2.5-hour play along more briskly. Act one, in particular, is overly long at almost 90 minutes.

Jake Meyer is a sly treat as Azolan, Valmont's valet, dressed in a Russian military uniform, and speaking Russian-accented English. Emilie, a courtesan played by Taylor Bostwick, is the only other character who seems to be Russian. Ann Marie White, as the restrained and devout Madame de Tourvel, and Emma Ladji as young Cecille, are Valmont's targets. The young Chevalier Danceny (Tim Larson), who was first charmed by Cecille, is Merteuil's prey.

The script and production are the same as earlier versions in most every way, with the addition of a few Russian place names and the two characters with Russian accents. The playbill doesn't mention the era and geographic setting (or any of the scene locations) that AstonRep has chosen, so that some playgoers might be puzzled about the use of Russian nomenclature in what is otherwise a French drama. Also Brittany Dee Bodley's costumes, although beautiful creations, create a mood of 18th century aristocracy: 1780s Paris, not 1917 Moscow. The director's concept of setting the play in Russia is intriguing but the time travel doesn't work.

Director McGrath does a credible job in using the small space of Raven's west theater to advantage. The scene changes on Jeremiah Barr's set are handled deftly. Two sets of curtains screen off the playing space and create a front-of-curtain space for a few scenes, such as the sweet opening scene where Danceny gives a violin lesson to Cecille, done totally In mime.

Hampton's adaptation was first staged in London in 1985 and on Broadway in 1987, before being produced as a film in 1988. Dangerous Liaisons was a memorable film, starring John Malkovich as the sinister, sensual Vicomte de Valmont and Glenn Close as the beautiful, scheming Marquise de Merteuil. Malkovich's performance (even though I haven't seen the film in years) was probably too much on my mind as I watched AstonRep's production. In addition, the title character in Steppenwolf Theatre's 1996 production of The Libertine by Stephen Jeffreys was eerily similar to Valmont. Malkovich played that part with relish too.

AstonRep will stage Les Liaisons Dangereuses through June 21 at Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark St. Performances are Thursday-Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 3:30pm. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online or by calling 773-828-9129.

GB store
GB store

Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


An Angry White Guy
AREA Chicago
ArchitectureChicago Plus
Arts Engagement Exchange
The Art Letter
Art or Idiocy?
Art Slant Chicago
Art Talk Chicago
Bad at Sports
Bite and Smile
Brian Dickie of COT
Bridgeport International
Carrie Secrist Gallery
Chainsaw Calligraphy
Chicago Art Blog
Chicago Art Department
Chicago Art Examiner
Chicago Art Journal
Chicago Artists Resource
Chicago Art Map
Chicago Art Review
Chicago Classical Music
Chicago Comedy Examiner
Chicago Cultural Center
Chicago Daily Views
Chicago Film Examiner
Chicago Film Archives
Chicago Gallery News
Chicago Uncommon
Contemporary Art Space
Co-op Image Group
Co-Prosperity Sphere
Chicago Urban Art Society
Creative Control
Devening Projects
DIY Film
The Exhibition Agency
The Flatiron Project
F newsmagazine
The Gallery Crawl...
Galerie F
The Gaudy God
Happy Dog Gallery
Homeroom Chicago
I, Homunculus
Hyde Park Artcenter Blog
Joyce Owens: Artist on Art
Julius Caesar
Kasia Kay Gallery
Kavi Gupta Gallery
Rob Kozlowski
Lookingglass Theatre Blog
Lumpen Blog
Mess Hall
Neoteric Art
Not If But When
Noun and Verb
On Film
On the Make
Peanut Gallery
Peregrine Program
The Poor Choices Show
Pop Up Art Loop
The Post Family
The Recycled Film
Reversible Eye
Rhona Hoffman Gallery
Roots & Culture Gallery
The Seen
Sisterman Vintage
Site of Big Shoulders
Sixty Inches From Center
Soleil's To-Do's
Sometimes Store
Stop Go Stop
Storefront Rebellion
TOC Blog
Theater for the Future
Theatre in Chicago
The Franklin
The Mission
The Theater Loop
Thomas Robertello Gallery
Time Tells Tony Wight Gallery
Uncommon Photographers
The Unscene Chicago
The Visualist
Western Exhibitions
What's Going On?
What to Wear During an Orange Alert?
You, Me, Them, Everybody
Zg Gallery

GB store



A/C on Flickr

Join the A/C Flickr Pool.

About A/C

A/C is the arts and culture section of Gapers Block, covering the many forms of expression on display in Chicago. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Nancy Bishop,
A/C staff inbox:



A/C Flickr Pool
 Subscribe in a reader.

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15