“Let them eat cake!” Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company’s 35th Anniversary Season opened with the proverbial bang last Friday night with David Adjmi’s original play about history’s most infamous teenage queen of France: Marie Antoinette.
…a mesmerizing spectacular well worth the trip to Chinatown.
Russian Director and newly created company member Yury Urnov comes from a theatrical tradition emphasizing interpretation. So why do we still care about Marie Antoinette? According to Urnov, “…she was a sign of beauty, ignorance, and decadence…in culture, we want to keep telling the story of killing her.” Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company’s production of Marie Antoinette is the story of killing Marie Antoinette, dissected, one scene at a time.
Act I begins with all the dark, glittery charm of a Sofia Coppola movie. The year is 1776 and the American Revolution has been successful. Marie (Kimberly Gilbert) is twenty-one years old and has been married to Louis XVI of France (Joe Isenberg), a king obsessed with tinkering with clocks, for seven years. Seven. Childless. Years. Life is a catwalk and Marie is the world’s model. Mirroring Marie’s struggles to laugh in the face of every new challenge, layers of the stage are systematically stripped away and aspects of the set are continually repurposed. Scene after scene chips at Marie’s glittery cocoon as she is first physically and then mentally assaulted by cold reality.
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company member Kimberly Gilbert leads a veteran cast as the titular Marie Antoinette. Gilbert’s Marie is energetic and irreverent, with all the snap and pop of a spoiled teen queen soaking up the spotlight. As deftly as the scenery and set are stripped away, Gilbert strips away Marie’s shining façade to reveal the cracking queen beneath, bringing raw emotion and heated ferocity to the role of Marie. Joe Isenberg (Louis XVI) and James Konicek (Revolutionary/Guard) provide outstanding support and masculine contrast to Gilbert’s very feminine Marie.
Ultimately, the last barriers between Marie and Revolutionary reality are torn down. And we all know how it ends; there are no secret twists or fantastical developments. Urnov and his production team, Kristy Matero (Production Stage Manager), Misha Kachman (Set Designer), Jen Schriever (Lighting Design), Eric Shimelonis (Composer/Sound Designer), Gary Logan (Vocal Director), Helen Huang (Costume and Wig Designer) and Kirsten Bowen (Production Dramaturg) produce a mesmerizing spectacular well worth the trip to Chinatown. After all, there is nothing more Washingtonians love than watching those in power squirm.
Advisory: Adult themes, brief nudity, strobe lights and adult language.
Running Time: Two hours with one fifteen minute intermission.
Marie Antoinette runs through October 12, 2014 at Woolly Mammoth Theatre located at 641 D Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004. For tickets, click here.