Dangerous Liaisons

In the Court Theatre production of Heiner Müller’s Quartet, which runs through February 27 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, the game of scheming and seduction first told in Choderlos de Laclos’s novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses gets whittled down to the two main players: the Marquise de Merteuil and her former lover, the Vicomte de Valmont.

Directed by JoAnne Akalaitis, AB’60—back for her sixth Court project—Quartet takes place not in a pre-revolutionary French court but in a “timeless, unspecified place,” interpreted by set and costume designer Kaye Voyce as a bland, double-bedded hotel room. Because Merteuil (Karen Kandel) and Valmont (Steven Rishard) play all the parts (including each other), the play involves, as Akalaitis told a Chicago Tribune reporter, “a lot of creative confusing gender-switching. They’re constantly switching from seducer to seduced as if to prove how much they deserve each other.”

An hour-long tour of the pair’s self-described “museum of love,” Quartet is about seduction as words and performance, language and theatricality, amusement and fear.

By M.R.Y.

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Photos (from left to right): role reversals: Merteuil (Karen Kandel) plays Valmont as seducer while Valmont (Steven Rishard) is the seduced Madame de Tourvel; after the fall: Karen Kandel as Merteuil and Steven Rishard as Valmont; Valmont (Steven Rishard) seduces a "virgin" (Karen Kandel).

Photos by Michael Brosilow.

February 14, 2005