Regional Reviews: St. Louis
The Great Seduction
It's all been cut down from Dumas' original five to two acts, and runs for less than two hours in a delightful English version, written by nuclear physicist-turned-playwright Vladimir Zelevinsky (author of the panoramic Manifest Destiny). This production is a don't-miss comedy about true love and, well, the other kind.
Steve Callahan directed Mr. Meyers (and Jared Sanz-Agero) in Stones in His Pockets one year ago. Now Mr. Callahan is back directing, and Mr. Meyers finds the exact right tone and level of authenticity to bring a randy French fop onto the 21st century American stage. I don't blame you if you don't think it's possible, but the whole show absolutely sparkles like a gem.
It all begins with equally smart and funny Heather Sartin as the Countess de Bourbon, breezing through her love letters, bored and dismissive of her many suitors. She then explains (to her maid, played by Rachel Bailey) that she's busy staying faithful to the Duke of Richelieu (Mr. Meyers) in their highly improbable three weeks of exclusivity.
And then two idealistic young lovers are tossed into the mix, Gabrielle de Belle-Isle (Gracie Sartin, daughter of Heather) and Raoul d'Aubigny (Alex Fyles). She is appealing to the Countess to get her father out of the Bastille, and Raoul iswell, I get mixed up, which I think is one of the rules of the game in French farce. But it isn't really a farce, so I have to consult my notes and say that Raoul is an ex-lover of the Countess, but is to marry Gabrielle in three days. Assuming the Duke of Richelieu doesn't get there first.
It's perfectly tailored: the acting, the comedythere's only one big "wink" at the audience, and that's put in just as we're agonizing about what might have happened after the long night of a ball, twenty miles from Paris. Challenge is made between the two men, and a duel is planned. But they couch it in different terms, which is also funny. And then things spin out of control in an unexpectedly meaningful, ethical way, as Gabrielle must assert herself in a world of men, and of connivers of both genders.
The end takes a huge turn, when all the plot points that have quietly been parading by in the background are suddenly woven together, and we realize how fragile is the world we live in. The Great Seduction accurately markets itself as lavish wit, then cashes it all in on startling wisdom. I'd see it again, but I'm going out of town.
The Great Seduction, through November 18, 2018, at West End Players Guild, 733 Union Blvd., St. Louis MO. For more information visit www.westendplayers.org.