Les Liaisons Dangereuses
There’s no shortage of feisty shenanigans in Remy Bumppo’s take on Liaisons, a story perhaps best known to audiences for the three films of the ’80s and ’90s also based on Choderlos de Laclos’s novel. But the play’s most dangerous of liaisons, the tryst between Tourvel (Gillum) and Valmont (Sandys), feels too tepid for this production’s darkest moments to hit home.
Instead, Darlow has mined the script well for naughty subtext and comedic bits, down to the servants’ mischief between scenes. As the lascivious ex-lovers and co-conspirators Valmont and Merteuil, the remarkable Sandys and Spence sink their fangs into Hampton’s witty banter: “I thought betrayal was your favorite word,” Sandys quips. “No, no,” Spence retorts with her sly, Cheshire-cat grin. “Cruelty.”
But when it comes time for the gut-wrenching consequences of said cruelty, the show loses impact. As Tourvel, Valmont’s virtuous, fragile, 22-year-old seduction victim, Gillum seems an odd casting choice. She captures Tourvel’s prudishness, but her chemistry with Sandys never competes with the sparks that fly when he’s opposite the radiant Spence or the hilariously clueless Cecile (Margaret Katch). So when this stiff relationship—and this shouldn’t be a spoiler—doesn’t work out, it’s simply not as affecting as it should be. That said, the conclusion between Spence, Annabel Armour and Janice O’Neill oozes with tension, and slick design choices wrap things up with a satisfying bang.