LIVE: “The Game” @ Barrington Stage, Pittsfield [GailSez]

August 24th, 2011, 12:30 pm by Sara
The Vicomte de Valmont (Graham Rowat - oh that profile!) and the Marquise de Merteuil (Rachel York) set the rules of "The Game" at Barrington Stage (photo: Kevin Sprague)

The Vicomte de Valmont (Graham Rowat - oh that profile!) and the Marquise de Merteuil (Rachel York) set the rules of "The Game" at Barrington Stage (photo: Kevin Sprague)

When I saw Les Liaisons Dangereuses at Shakespeare & Company in February of 2010, it struck me as a sort of pre-television reality show The Real Nobility of 18th Century Paris, only you, the audience, are the intrusive camera catching all the naughty goings-on. The Game is a musical version of that play which was adapted by Christopher Hampton in 1985 from the 1782 novel of the same name by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. God forbid we ever get musical reality TV, but this dark frolic almost makes me think it might work. Here composer Megan Cavallari and librettists Amy Powers and David Topchik have set wickedness to music and come up with a deeper and more serious work than Hampton managed create.

What Laclos (1741-1803) wanted to accomplish with his writing (his career was primarily in the military) was to “write a work which departed from the ordinary, which made a noise, and which would remain on earth after his death.” He wrote in the epistolary style, meaning that the novel consists of letters between the characters, and Powers and Topchik have retained more of that feel by opening most scenes with songs that in turn begin with the “letter writer” addressing the audience as if we were the intended recipient of the message.

Laclos set his novel in his own time, and, although he lived to see the revolution that decimated the lives of the people on whom he based his fictional characters, there is no foreshadowing in his tale of sexual intrigue amongst the upper classes, nor did he return to rewrite his novel to reflect the dramatic change in French society after 1789.

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