Techno music, celebrity culture and a sheep: David Adjmi’s wildly extravagant and superbly funny play, “Marie Antoinette,” combines these elements and others to create an eccentric telling of the French Queen’s reign. This Friday and Saturday, the Residential College Players are performing the anomalous tale in East Quad’s Keene Theater.
Modernizing interactions and conversations of the 1700s, the play brings new insights to Antoinette’s lavish life.
“It is historical, but all of the dialogue is in contemporary vernacular. The author kind of picked some really unusual moments in her life to hone in on,” said RC Senior and director of the production, Sara Head. “I think it’s a much more psychological look at what happened to her and her life and her story.”
Original and grandiose, the tragicomedy leads up to Antoinette’s execution, following her throughout her reign as Queen of France.
“I think it’s super timely. One would expect it to not be super relevant considering it all happened 300 years ago, but it offers some really poignant commentary on celebrity culture and what happens when you put somebody up on a pedestal and give them all of this authority over culture without really holding them to any set standards,” Head said.
Pertinent to the current political climate, the show plays with the concept of power and the extent to which it can be interpreted and stretched. It deals with the lavishness that so often consumes society, crafting the character of Marie Antoinette out of the grand values of her setting. The play delves into this and takes the audience through the rise and fall of her royal tragedy.
“Marie Antoinette” combines its themes with diverse lighting and soundscapes to create an otherworldly experience. Drawing inspiration from both traditional and contemporary music, Head crafted a soundtrack that ranges from classical all the way to techno.
The effect: a show that’s grand enough to entice the audience, strange enough to keep them interested and impactful enough to leave them mulling over what just happened.
The nature of the production is “surrealist,” Head said. “There’s a sheep character that comes in and talks to Marie, and all of these kinds of weird things that you can’t really tell what’s real and what’s not.”
With a context that calls for an over-the-top set and time period costumes, the opulence of Marie Antoinette’s life is something that has necessitated extreme time and efforts to emulate. The play has been a true labor of love for Head and the rest of the RC Players.
“The RC players can only provide a small budget, and I’ve been fundraising like crazy and applying for grants, and I think we’ve managed to get enough to put together a really cool set,” Head added. “We also have the whole of the RC Players kind of backing us up and providing support wherever we need it. It has been a huge group effort. Our faculty advisor has been coming in and helping us get access to set pieces and props that we need, so I’ve gotten everybody on board with this project.”
Tirelessly working to embody the artifice of Marie Antoinette’s world, the RC Players have put together a show that journeys through the concepts of power and extravagance, giving the audience a spectacularly original experience.
“Just come in looking to experience a new take on a classic story,” Head said. “We’re mostly hoping that people are a little bit different when they walk out than when they first walked in, whether that just means they were entertained or they took something a little deeper from it. We just want to make some kind of impact on the audience.”