An Ambitious Tragicomedy: MARIE ANTOINETTE

photo by Joan Marcus

Marie Antoinette by David Adjmi
Directed by Rebecca Taichman

American Repertory Theater, Loeb Drama Center
September 1 – September 29

Reviewed by Kate Longberg-Lew

You are likely already familiar with the tale of Marie Antoinette, the young queen who eventually losses her head at the bequest of her constituency, but you’ve never seen it presented this way. The ART’s production is, in a word, ambitious. This self-described tragicomedy is part Sex in the City, part Moulin Rouge, part modern, part historical, part drama, and part comedy.  

In fact it takes on so much, that it never seems to settle anywhere. And it leaves everyone, cast and audience alike, wondering what exactly they are experiencing. Even Antoinette seems to feel adrift, and pauses to declare that this is, in fact, a comedy. But, before you go writing off this production, hear me out, because ultimately it works. It is colorful, fast-paced, engaging, funny, and touching.

And its success is due in large part to Brook Bloom (Marie Antoinette). She turns in a fabulous performance that is reminiscent of Winona Ryder at her best (think Reality Bites and Girl, Interrupted). She has strong physicality and comedic timing, as well as emotional depth. Bloom transitions seamlessly from a shallow, clueless girl to a distraught woman all too aware of her fate, and the audience has no difficulty following her gradual descent into madness. Bloom’s performance is supported by Andrew Cekala, who plays her son, (The Dauphin) and Steven Rattazzi (Louis).

Director Rebecca Taichman and Scenic Designer Riccardo Hernandez work together to create a set that is elegant in its simplicity and vibrant. They do, on occasion, veer into the overdramatic, shocking the audience with extreme volume, and at one point, a mound of dirt. At these times it feels like a four year-old yelling, “Look at me!” as he shows off his jumping ability for the tenth time. Given the play’s subject matter and their stylistic choices, this is not entirely unreasonable; however, this theatregoer wishes they had trusted the audience enough to not hit us with the clue-by-four.

The bottom line here is that this is a vibrant play with stellar acting and the very best of intentions.

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