Reviewed by David Spencer
I rarely if ever write mainstream Broadway reviews so brief as this one, but, despite my usual time crunch, I find that I haven't that much to say about the Roundabout revival of Christopher Hampton's Les Liasons Dangereuses (adapted from the classic French epistolary novel by Choderlos de Laclos) except that it's deucedly good and that you should hie yourself to the American Airlines Theatre on 42nd Street to take it in.
The story, having received a number of high-profile film dramatizations in the last quarter century (in the wake of this play's London premiere, only one of those films a direct adaptation of the play) is probably familiar to most. In Paris of the 1780s, two upper crust social "independents" who delight in the sexual and moral manipulation of others (Ben Daniels and Laura Linney) agree to a wager. If he can penetrate the defenses—and the person—of one particular moral innocent (Jessica Collins), he will be rewarded with a night of passion in the bed of his increasingly less friendly opponent. None of the players is truly prepared for the emotional fallout.
The production is a spectacularly designed affair, its clean, streamlined opulence more in keeping with the dazzle of a musical than a straight drama (glistening, mirrored and screened sets by Scott Pask, deliciously frilly yet pointedly character-centric costumes by Katrina Lindsay, unsentimental lighting design [which is to say its cool signature enhances the emotional subtexts] by Donald Holder); and under the direction of Rufus Norris, the show is bracingly acted, as all souls undergo change; and increasingly blind pride takes the gamesters to the point at which even dedicated amorality collapses—too late—under the weight of conscience and truth. Especially memorable is that central triumvirate—the merciless charm of Ms. Linney; the eroding resolve of Mr. Daniels; and the increasing vulnerability of Ms. Collins.
So that's it then. No deep thoughts, no thoughtful analysis, no describing in luscious detail that which you can experience perfectly well for itself. Just an advisory that the game is worth the candelabra. And sometimes that's enough...