A Good Production of Jean Cocteau's Indiscretions at the Marin Theatre Company
The legendary French author, playwright and filmmaker Jean Cocteau wrote a play for his then lover, French film actor Jean Marais. The play, Les Parents Terribles, opened in Paris in 1938 and Municipal Council promptly shut the production down. They called the play scandalous and immoral. It reopened again in three years and it was promptly closed again.
British playwright Jeremy Sams translated the play almost 56 years later and it premiered at London’s Royal National Theatre in 1994. It became an instant hit. It moved to New York the following year with an all star cast including Kathleen Turner, now appearing here in Tallulah, Jude Law, Roger Rees and Eilene Atkins. It was nominated for nine Tony Awards.
Whereas the original American dysfunctional family is in Long Day’s Journey into Night, we have the original French dysfunctional family in Cocteau’s dark comedy. Indiscretions tells of a family writhing in the agonies of being in love, and often with the wrong person. There was a flirtatious relationship between the mother and son, an electric sexual tension between her sister and her husband, and the sticky reality of father and son sharing the same mistress.
Yvonne, the mother, is a self imposed invalid and she spends most of her time in bed. She has an unhealthy attachment to her 22 year old son Michael. The son is passionate about his mother, whom he teasingly calls Sophie, and he spends a lot of the time in the bed just hugging her. He announces that he has found the love of his life, Madeleine, a young bookbinder. He now wants to be free from the mother’s obsessive dominance. Needless to say Yvonne is frantic about losing her “little boy”.
Unbeknownst to all, Madeline also happens to be having an affair with Michael father’s, George. When George finally finds out about Madeline's affair with his son, he confesses his indiscretion to his sister-in-law Leonine, who has been love with George most of her adult life.
So what we have here is: Yvonne loves Michael, Michael loves Madeleine, Madeleine loves Michael and George, Aunt Leonie loves George and George loves Madeleine, Yvonne and Michael. Only the French could think up this plot.
The dark comedy is a textbook example of Freudian psychology, and we see the extremes between chaos and order, child and adult, and good and evil. The play is a complex of human character and family dynamics.
I will not try to compare the acting skills of the original New York company to the Marin Theatre Company since some of the characters take a different spin to their roles. Here, Deborah Offner played Yvonne like one of the madwomen of Paris. She reveled in the excessive behavior of the mother. She played the woman a little too much over the top. Ms. Offner is a well known actress in New York and has appeared in many of Joe Papp’s Public Theatre productions. She has many film and television credits also.
David Agranov, an up and coming young actor, played Michael. He played the son like a big puppy dog, rolling around on the bed, jumping and hugging everybody. Oh yes - he does appear nude on the stage, more than Jude Law did in the original. Agranov was delightfully skittish and immature in his performance.
Francis Lee McCain, who played Kevin Bacon’s mom in Footloose among other film roles, played the devious, orderly sister and housemaid Leonie. She had good comic timing and the right amount of irony in her lines. Warren David Keith, another fine actor from ACT, seemed lost in the role of George. He was wooden and affected, and he could not find his way into the character.
The set of the bedroom of Yvonne was very impressive and the direction by Amy Glazer was intelligent. The production runs through Feb 4 at the Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Ave, Mill Valley, CA Tickets are $24 to $40. Call 415-388-528 or visit www.marinthetre.com.
The next production will be Arthur Miller’s The Crucible running from March 8 to April 1.
Cheers - and be sure to check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area