Prepare to swoon. This opulent revival ofChristopher Hampton's adaptation of the French novel by Choderlos de Laclos, arriving on Broadway courtesy of London's Donmar Warehouse, is delectably seductive, a theatrical pleasure with two consummate actors seducing each other and everyone else they can find, especially us. Josie Rourke directs this long, luscious play by creating superb stage pictures, arranging the characters with shrewd delicacy.
Written in the late 18th century, this portrait of decadent French aristocracy, unaware they are living under the approaching shadow of the Revolution's guillotine, is a superb study in self-indulgent cruelty. Chief among the players in their dangerous game are Janet McTeer as La Marquise de Merteuil and her former lover and current co-conspirator Le Vicomte de Valmont played by Liev Schreiber. They are delectable in their plotting, wicked in their amusements, and heartless in their sport-sex.
La Marquise, whose sexual appetite matches Le Vicomte's, knows that women can be destroyed by the merest gossip, while conquests enhance a man's reputation. Thus her machinations spring from spite, as she orchestrates the destruction of two young women with Le Vicomte as her weapon. "Love and revenge—two of your favorites."
Their first project is to ruin the convent-raised Cecile Volanges, played by the bouncy, winsome Elena Kampouris who is adorable as she takes to sex like a duck to water. But this is child's play for the formidable pair; their next victim is far more challenging: Madame de Tourvel, famous for her modesty and fidelity to her husband. Birgitte Hjort Sorensen is a marvel of nuance, as little by little she falls for Le Vicomte. The betrayals pile up as they, and sometimes we, are fooled.
McTeer as this mistress of deceit is sometimes stately, sometimes playful—her expressive hands and her velvety voice are riveting. Schreiber stalks the stage and then lounges on the front-and-center chaise longue. Two subtle actors reveal, in brief, unguarded glimpses, their characters' own pain. But "the game" is all they have.
The set (designed by Tom Scutt) is a gorgeous study in decadence: peeling walls, huge paintings of flowers (nicely matched by the flower arrangements in vases), empty gilt frames. The glittering chandaliers come and go.
Booth Theatre, 222 W. 45th St