‘Les Liaisons’ is seductive, fun



By Judah Taylor

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For two short hours UK’s Guignol Theatre was nothing but delightful debauchery, as “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” was put on by the UK Department of Theatre.

Viewing the story through the lens of ’80s punk rock, Nancy Jones, chair of the department, directed students in a rendition that was as brilliant as it was naughty.

“Les Liaisons” shows the “battle between love and virtue” and glorifies the devious behavior that leaves participants with nothing but coal under their Christmas trees for the rest of their lives.

The immoral excitement comes from both the lingerie and steamy sex scenes, and Christopher Hampton’s froufrou prose and verse.

Much of that steamy behavior was spotlighted by the two leads, who shouldered much of that immorality in a charming demeanor.

Abby Sheridan’s portrayal of the chillingly cruel Madame de Merteuil reminded every male in the audience why they always found the Evil Queen more enticing than Snow White. Portraying a woman whose favorite word is cruelty can be a challenge, but Sheridan WAS the Machiavellian mistress who played chess with the rest of the cast with a determined smile — determined to “win or die.”

And Paul DiSilvestro’s character, suave snake Vicomte de Valmont, was as much Westley from the “Princess Bride” as he was the Dark Lord Voldemort. His performance stole the show. As he paced across the stage and kissed woman after woman he oozed a swagger that Harrison Ford’s Han Solo might be jealous of.

Madison McGhee, who played the object of much manipulation, Madame de Tourvel, delivered lines with a nervous and timid ting whenever DiSilvestro approached, which was wonderfully convincing. Her expressions and jagged, sharp movements were perfectly understood. You knew she hated that she was in love with Valmont.

The costumes were excellent. If you could take a photo of the 18th-century French aristocracy and view it through an Instagram filter called “1980s Punk Rock,” the result would be designer Nelson Fields’ costumes. Characters were wearing dresses, gowns and jackets that were of the correct cut and style of Pre-Revolution France but made of leather or nylon.

Actors wore overdone makeup, mohawks, leather boots, jackets and fishnet-style pantyhose.

Combined with an ’80s French punk-rock soundtrack and flashing bright, colorful lights, the stage seemed like a Paris nightclub.

Jones’ addition to the script, an ensemble of six dancers and performers, served as the voice of society that sees the action unfold and learns from the characters’ mistakes. Or perhaps they were just other people at the nightclub — they really can dance and certainly are dressed for a night out.

What really made the show unique was the seating. The audience was on stage where the play was being performed. It was intimate and, at times, frightening and made the audience feel as if it were part of the show, the ensemble or simply in a nightclub watching some drama unfold.

Final performances of “Les Liaisons” are Oct. 18-20 at 7:30 p.m. and on Oct. 21 at 2 p.m. in the Guignol Theatre.

Tickets are $10 for students and $15 for the public at the Singletary Center ticket office, 859 257-4929 or www.scfatickets.com.