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"Les Liaisons" presents its challenges

October 2012

Corsets, chaise-longues, and classical music abound; the stage is nearly set for Christopher Hampton's Les Liaisons Dangereuses. In production since the end of August, the show will run Oct. 5, 6, and 7 in Allaert Auditorium.

This dark comedy highlights the French aristocracy of the Ancien Régime around 1780, shortly before the French revolution. The Vicomte de Valmont and his female counterpart, La Marquise de Merteuil, weave a story of romantic entanglements as full of passion as they are deceit. Ruining the young Cécile de Volanges for marriage and destroying the reputation of La President de Tourvel, no character remains unscathed in this merciless love story.

Despite a busy life with teaching, directing, and a new baby daughter, guest-director and adjunct professor Saffron Henke is enjoying her experience at St. Ambrose.

"I've been really proud of the cast for working hard on the technical stuff but also being willing to take risks," Henke said. "I'm really grateful and excited to get to do this, and I hope I get to do it again."

Bearing the delicate mission of costuming the show is department chair Corinne Johnson. A combination of renting and building costumes and the ornate fashion of the time period presents Johnson with the challenge of how to best design the show.

"The silhouette of the period is so counter-intuitive to what our contemporary eye sees as attractive that I want to be true to the period within the realms of contemporary sensibility," Johnson said.

The decadence of the costuming mirrors the detail-oriented work faced by the director and the cast to convey this love story–old only in age, but not in antics–to the contemporary audience. A morality play told through amoral means, Les Liaisons Dangereuses seeks to deliver a message about the power of sexuality, love, and deceit, and the effects these have on the human condition.

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