Theatre UCF starts off the new year with the provocative play Les Liaisons Dangereuses. The production runs Jan. 17-27 on the Main Stage.
Based on a novel written in 1782 by Choderlos de Laclos, the story has lived through many adaptations. The novel fell out of favor for many years, but was adapted for stage, and later screen by Christopher Hampton, and has since enjoyed a renewed popularity.
In 1982, Hampton’s screen adaptation Dangerous Liaisons starred John Malkovich and Glenn Close. In 1989 the story was reinterpreted again as Valmont, starring Colin Firth and Annette Bening. It was adapted again in 1999 under the title Cruel Intentions, and starred Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Selma Blair, and Reese Witherspoon.
Director Donald Seay acknowledges that some people may find the content of the play challenging and disturbing. “It is the perverse story of two venomous rivals who, for their own amusement and to settle scores, seduce and corrupt a young lady and a pious married woman.”
“It is certainly a very interesting script, though, and presents some wonderful acting and design opportunities for our faculty and students.”
BFA acting student Stephanie Recio is performing the role of Le Presidente de Tourvel, a virtuous young married woman known for her strict morals and religious fervor.
“This is one of the most challenging roles I’ve ever taken on,” says Recio. “Doc [Seay] has collected a group of actors on this play who were ready to accept a challenge. This is a difficult play, but I’m excited to be on stage with people who I trust and people who are giving it their all.”
Recio says her character is one of the few in the play who has redeeming qualities. “I think Tourvel bears all of the innocence in a play that is really harsh and cruel. When I first read it, I had a lot of trouble understanding my character—how could she not see through these people? Tourvel gives everyone the benefit of the doubt.”
The play is set during an opulent time, and the scenic and costume designs reflect that. The realistic set was designed by Joseph Rusnock, who also designed the grand sets for Theatre UCF’s Deathtrap and Side Show. The elaborate costumes are designed by Daniel M. Jones and for the most part have been built in the costume shop by Theatre UCF staff and students.
“The costumes are beautiful!” says Recio. “My dress is three or four feet wide, which makes it hard to move around. It helps me with period movement, though. There’s only so much the language can do to put you in a time period. The costume restricts how I move. Standing up from a couch was different in the 1700s, and the dress helps me move in a way more fitting to the time.”
Seay warns against looking too deeply into the script for hidden messages.
“If there is a message to Les Liaisons Dangereuses, it is certainly ambiguous. And is perhaps this very ambiguity that makes the story successful. It allows the audience member the freedom to interpret the tale. The wit and eloquence of the characters is certainly engaging and, like a good mystery, the questions of ‘Who is sincere? What is true?’ holds your attention,” he said.
“Like a train wreck, the story reels you in—it engages you, troubles you and at times chills your blood. If I had to pick a message I suppose it would have something to do about the dangers of trying to win at any cost.”
Theatre UCF is on the UCF campus near the intersection of University Boulevard and Alafaya Trail. Performances begin at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. Sundays. This show is not appropriate for children.
To purchase tickets or for ticket information call the box office at 407-823-1500. Standard tickets are $20 ($18 for seniors; $10 for students) and group rates are available. It is recommended to purchase tickets in advance, available through the Theatre UCF box office. UCF offers accommodations to make the theatre more accessible to patrons with disabilities; for assistance, call the box office in advance.
Production at a glance:
Les Liaisons Dangereuses
By Christopher Hampton
Adapted from the novel by Choderlos de Laclos
Directed by Don Seay
Jan. 17-19, 24-26 at 8 p.m.
Jan. 20, 27 at 2 p.m.
Main Stage Theater
Price: Standard $20, Senior $18, Student $10; Group discounts available
Address: 4000 Central Florida Blvd., Orlando FL 32816
Box Office Phone: 407-823-1500
Box Office Hours: Monday through Friday: noon to 6 p.m. and 2 hours before performances
For more information about Theatre UCF, visit http://theatre.ucf.edu.