“Dangerous Liasions” is eye-filling

Par Alidor Aucoin le 18 septembre 2008

As Le Vicomte de Valmont in the Segal Centre’s eye-filling production of Dangerous Liasons, Brett Christopher is a satin-lapelled lounge lizard with all the right moves.

Christopher’s nimble performance as an amoral aristocrat and first rate cad with piercing blue eyes who lets his fingers do much of the talking dominates the Segal’s lavish and lacerating staging of Christopher Hampton’s play which is based on the Pierre Choderlos de Laclos novel.

Catherine de Sèvre brings chilling strength but little sexual excitement to the role of La Marquise de Merteuil, Valmont’s decadent co-conspirator. It is hard to accept de Sèvre as someone who really believes a woman “can do it as often as you like with as many men as you like in as many ways as you like.”

Anyone who has seen John Malkovitch in the movie version or Ryan Phillippe in Cruel Intentions—an updated film version of the same tale—is familiar with the story. These two characters don’t seduce their unsuspecting victims out of any desire for sexual pleasure, but to keep score.

Among the many pleasant surprises in the Segal production are Gemma James-Smith as the virginal 15-year old, Cécile de Volanges. With her wholesome good looks, ringlets, and blushing cheeks, she is as alluring as Botticelli’s Venus. As her mother, Madame de Volanges, Tara Nicodemo, conveys breeding and temperament. And Jake Epstein is, appropriately, naively appealing as Cécile’s juvenile suitor, Le Chevalier Danceny.

Jillian Niedoba is excellent as Valmont’s other conquest, the married and virtuous La Présidente de Tourvel. It is espec-ially gratifying to see Moira Wylie’s elegant turn as Valmont’s aunt, Madame de Rosemonde.

Anathousa Harris is deliciously uninhibited as the courtesan, Émilie. The letter writing scene in which her derierre serves as Valmont’s desk is a a moment to be savoured.

Set designer’s Yannik Larivée’s polished black onyx and gold backdrop is a minor masterpiece of mirrored light and shadow. Furniture piled off in a corner adds to the illusion that there is nothing permanent about the handsome boudoirs; these rooms aren’t designed for long term relationships, but for hasty couplings and lurid trysts.

Jessica Poirier-Chang’s costumes are lustrous classics suitable for a brothel in any era and Dmitri Marine’s original musical score is good. There’s not as much skin as you might expect on stage in these permissive times. Nothing about Alexandre Marine’s fluid direction is vulgar or prurient. His interpretation of Dangerous Liasons, like the book upon which it is based, leaves a lot to the imagination.

In a play about the destructive power of sex that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Dangerous Liasons is at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts at the Saidye, 5170 Côte-Ste-Catherine, until Sept. 28.

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