Review and Discussion by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray
Gail M. Burns: I am a sucker for the story of a remarkable woman well told, and that is exactly what Lauren Gunderson has done in her ponderously titled Emilie: La Marquise Du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight about the life and work the titular lady, who lived from 1706-1749. She was a mathematician, a physicist, an author, a wife and mother, and the lover of Voltaire (ne François-Marie Arouet, 1694-1778).
WAM Artistic Director and the director of the production, Kristen van Ginhoven, reports that she got chills the first time she read the script. She has transferred that initial excitement into a fine production, beautifully designed by three more talented women – Juliana von Haubrich (sets), Govane Lohbauer (costumes) and Andi Lyons (lights) – and performed by a cast of five (three women, two men) anchored by a heartbreakingly perfect performance by Kim Stauffer in the title role.
Larry Murray: I gave up on male writers trying to fathom the mind of a woman a long time ago. But this Emilie gave me one of the best looks inside a woman’s mind to date. What the playwright Lauren Gunderson has done – through her near stream-of-consciousness script – is make it clear that when the clash of the sexes takes place, with Emilie it was her heartfelt desire for truth that led her to break society’s rules, while with Voltaire, it was ego and desire to protect the established order that led him to undermine her. And as it turns out this is a good topic for entertaining theatre.