46 Walker St. between Broadway & Church St.
Tuesday - Sunday through November 3, $35-$50; November 5–17, $55-$75; November 19—24, $55-$80; Sunday, October 27, $0.99, first come, first served
Following more lavish productions at American Repertory Theater and Yale Repertory Theatre, David Adjmi’s Marie Antoinette gets the stripped-down, minimalist treatment at Soho Rep., where it’s just been extended through November 24. The staging is stark; the seventy-three-seat general admission audience sits in two long, horizontal rows of chairs, facing a white wall that announces the name of the play, and its main character. The story begins in 1776, as Marie (the always wonderful Marin Ireland) is gossiping over tea and macarons with her friends Yolande de Polignac (Marsha Stephanie Blake) and Therese de Lamballe (Jennifer Ikeda), discussing Rousseau, revolution, and the height of their hair. “I do like to disport myself,” the Valley Girl-like Antoinette says. “I’m sorry, even buffeted by the outcries of peasants — I’m a queen. I cannot simply forfeit my luxuries.” Among her luxuries is a dazzling red dress designed by Anka Lupes and a fab blonde wig courtesy of Amanda Miller. (The previous productions featured bigger hair and numerous costume changes, but Ireland now remains in the same dress until it’s nearly ripped off of her in act two.) She wants to have children, but her husband, the diminutive and hapless King Louis XVI (Steven Ratazzi), is scared of getting an operation on his member that would help them conceive.
Eventually, the regal Antoinette is singing a very different tune after being imprisoned by revolutionaries. “I wasn’t raised, I was built: I was built to be this thing; and now they’re killing me for it,” she says. Ireland (The Big Knife, Reasons to Be Pretty) has a ball as Antoinette, and her enthusiasm is infectious. She exhibits the queen’s fall from grace with just the right amount of pathos, especially as the peasants start their vicious personal attacks on her, centered around a pseudo-autobiography that declares her a sex-addicted whore. Director Rebecca Taichman’s spare staging turns both wacky and sublime when Antoinette, who thought of herself as a shepherdess, is visited by a talking sheep (manipulated by David Greenspan). The cast also includes Chris Stack as Marie’s would-be lover, Axel Fersen; Aimée Laurence as the dauphin; and Will Pullen as an unsympathetic revolutionary. With its swift and elegant tongue placed firmly in its stylishly made-up cheek, this Marie Antoinette is an engaging, seriocomic look at a legendary historical figure who has become an unlikely pop-culture icon.
(There will be several special events associated with the play. The October 27 show will be followed by the discussion “What Is a History Play?,” the talk “How to Grow a New Play with David Adjmi” is scheduled for October 28 at 6:00, and the 7:30 performance on November 2 will be followed by the program “The Queen’s Room: French Interior Design and the State of the Nation.” In addition, Barbara Schulz will star in the one-woman show Les correspondances de Marie-Antoinette on October 24 at FIAF, and Perrin Stein will lead tours of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Artists and Amateurs: Etching in 18th-Century France” display on October 25 and November 1.)