Among the many questions raised by Les Liaisons Dangereuses, set in the late 1780s in an opulent France, is how can people wearing so many clothes be so sexy? The answer lies in the delicious deceits and libidinous machinations of playwright Christopher Hampton’s exquisitely written confederates in games of love and revenge, the Vicomte de Valmont and the Marquise de Merteuil. New Fortune Theatre Co.’s production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses is being staged in the San Diego Rep’s Lyceum Space under the co-direction of New Fortune artistic director Richard Baird and Kaitlin O’Neal. Theirs is a bold realization of Hampton’s 1985 play, from its rich 18th-century costumes by Howard Schmitt, its sensual lighting and artfully choreographed scene changes to the irresistible performances by Baird as the cocksure Valmont and Jessica John Gercke as scheming Merteuil.
Nearly overshadowed by Baird’s charismatic presence is the depth of Hampton’s language, rife with introspection on love, sex and betrayal. As Valmont seeks to conquer not only the elusive Madame de Tourvel (Amanda Schaar) but also the virginal Cecile de Volanges (Gentry Roth), his mask of cunning is stripped away. Meanwhile, his partner in crime, Merteuil, is in for a shock to the ego and the heart. This New Fortune production is yes, very sexy, but also a penetrating discourse on the games people play.
David L. Coddon is theater critic for San Diego CityBeat