REVIEW: Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Remy Bumppo)

Now we know why the French have their own kiss



Remy Bumppo presents:
Les Liaisons Dangereuses
by Christopher Hampton
based on novel by Pierre Choderlos De Laclos
directed by David Darlow
at The Greenhouse Theatre, 2257 N. Lincoln (map)
through May 2nd (more info | buy tickets)
review by Katy Walsh 

Before the inventions of texting, reality television and video games, people, at least the French Aristocrats, unleashed their passions with love letters, self-created drama and sexual conquests. Remy Bumppo presents Les Liaisons Dangereuses, an 18th century tale of love, lust and revenge. The Madame de Merteuil and the Le Vicomte de Valmont are lovers turned friends turned game players. Merteuil enlists Vicomte to seduce Cecile. Merteuil wants to disgrace Cecile’s betrothed who happens to be vert Mme Merteuil (Rebecca Spence)_Valmont (Nick Sandys) Merteuil’s former lover. Vicomte is currently wooing a married Madame de Tourvel for his own personal best in conquering a woman of moral integrity. Vicomte agrees to Merteuil’s side project because Cecile’s mother badmouthed him to Tourvel. As a reward, Merteuil agrees to have sex with Vicomte if he produces written proof of his affair with Tourvel. Let the games begin! But who’s playing who? Explaining why the French had a kiss named after them, Les Liaisons Dangereuses erupts with passionate trysts for a sexually charged escapade of entertainment.

The Hugh Hefner of the 18th century, Vicomte (Nick Sandys) is the original playboy. A charming and confident Sandys nails the part and the ladies with a tongue well versed for intercourse. Sandys glides through the lengthy discourse with witty elegance. With promises to “dominate your sex and avenge my own”, Merteuil (Rebecca Spence) is Vicomte’s opponent in games of lust and cruelty. Despite the missing years of bitter heartache, Spence’s facial expressions are deliciously diabolical serving up brutality with wide-eyed smiling innocence. Margaret Katch (Cecile) is perfect as a promiscuous teen in secret rebellion against her mother. David Darlow directs the cast through the dialogue heavy script at a quick pace with thoughtful pauses for dramatic climax.

horiz Mme Merteuil (Rebecca Spence)_Cecile (Margaret Katch) horiz Mme Tourvel (Linda Gillum)_Valmont (Nick Sandys)
horiz Emilie (Sienna Harris) and Valmont (Nick Sandys) vert2 Valmont (Nick Sandys)_Mme Merteuil (Rebecca Spence) liaison

Multiple scenes occur transporting the action from salon to bedroom in various locales. Alan Donahue cleverly reuses the furniture and paintings with modified positions to illustrate the vary of address. Chambermaids rotate a screen on rollers and a daybed effortlessly to make the scene transformations seamless. The costumes by Emily Waecker are exquisite for a visual history lesson on outer and under wear. Vicomte’s coats would be the envy of Liberace with their elaborate finery. Merteuil dons a multiple layer gray silk monstrosity that wouldn’t be figure flattering but still appealing for its classiness.

The award winning playwright Christopher Hampton penned a clever adaption of the up and downside of immorality. Actualizing his script, Remy Bumppo delivers multiple orgasmic moments in this production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses.

Rating: ★★★★

horiz Cecilie (Margaret Katch)_Valmont (Nick Sandys)



Extra Credit: Illustrated Field Guide (PDF)
As part of their “think theatre” mission, Remy Bumppo creates a production guide designed to enrich your theatre experience.  Hard copies of this field guide can be purchased for $5.00, and archived guides for previous seasons are available for $10.00.  To purchase a field guide, contact Stephanie Kulke via e-mail or at 773-244-8119.

Running Time: Two hours and forty-five minutes with intermission


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An interview with Andrea McArdle – an orphan no longer

Andrea McArdle  – On the road since 1977

Interview by Novelist Amy Shearn

Andrea McArdleAt the Wilmette Theatre, Sunday May 16th at 2:30pm, Chicago residents (and beyond) will have an opportunity that would make me – if I was still seven-years old – shriek with joy.  No, it’s not a pet unicorn or a canopy bed: it’s a performance by the talented show business veteran Andrea McArdle, who created the role of Annie in the Broadway musical Annie in 1977.

AS: Okay, I’m sorry, you’re probably tired of talking about “Annie”…

AM: (laughing) I’ve made my peace with it.  During the whole thing I was not that fun to deal with.  It’s just so different when you’re in it.

AS: I was obsessed with “Annie” as a kid.

AM: I always meet gay guys who are like, “The red album! The red album!” [The original Broadway cast recording]

"The Red Album"

AS: Exactly.  I read that you were pulled from the chorus of orphans to play Annie on Broadway.

AM: I was the toughest orphan.  The only reason they never considered me for Annie was that I wasn’t a redhead. I was on the soap opera “Search for Tomorrow” and I was contracted with long brown hair.  Then they realized not to look for what’s outside — you could dye hair or wear a wig, not that my mother would have let me dye my hair — but to look for the soul of the character, and I got the role.

AS: What was it like to be cast as Annie? 

AM: The show wasn’t a hit then. To me, I treated it the same way I treated the school play — I didn’t really see the difference between that and Broadway.  I had no idea what a Tony award was. When I was nominated for one I was like, “Oh, cool.”  It was just another gig.

I have great parents.  I was always the daughter before  a commodity.   I was a gymnast before theatre and it was just like that — being part of a team.  Afterwards, it became a hit.  When it hit we knew we were the toast of the town.  It could have been terrible, but like I said, I had great parents.

AS: What was it like being a child star?

AM: I’m lucky that it wasn’t television, which uses you up and spits you out.  You know, sometimes I’m still waiting for my “Norma Rae” role and think it just hasn’t happened yet.  (laughs.)   After “Annie,” I had offers to go on sitcoms but they were all terrible and luckily we knew better.  It would have had a horrible outcome, just trashed my reputation.  They didn’t know what do with kids when I was hot.

Today they have the Disney channel, I would have had my own show, a whole franchise.  But then, American Broadway was dying — it was the beginning of the British Invasion and all major producers were on their last legs.  There were really no projects around, so we just didn’t get to ride the momentum.  That’s why it’s nice to also be a singer.  It was hard to cast me — I looked like an eight-year-old boy until I was eighteen and then suddenly grew up one summer — so no one knew what to do with me.

AS: You appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and performed with Liberace. What was that like?

Liberace (photo from

AM: It was amazing. I wasn’t phased. I did the Carson show three times. I played Judy Garland in the movie Rainbow on NBC and Liberace saw it. I was in school writing a paper on JFK and got a call to go to Las Vegas. Liberace gave me my sweet 16 party, which was wrong on so many levels, but great.

AS: What do you think of contemporary child stars?

AM: Ugh, so many of them are puppets for sick parents.  It’s so different from getting into business because a child has talent. I feel horrible for them; I would never want to grouped into the child star group.

AS: Do you ever get tired of being Annie?

AM: Well, sometimes I think the Annie thing has held me back.  If I had arrived on scene at 18 or 19 it would been better — you can’t be an adolescent girl in mary janes and a red dress forever.  But I wouldn’t change a thing.

AS: What were some of your favorite roles?

AM: I got to play Belle in “Beauty and the Beast.”  I was 37, and I was surprised they were calling me.  I thought they were calling me for Mrs. Potts and I was like, Mmm, I don’t know if I’m ready to play a teapot.  But I loved playing Belle.  My daughter was 12, and it was great to be in something she was so in to.  I think that’s the best Disney story, too.  It’s not just for kids.  It has universal appeal.

I loved played Sally Bowles — it’s really fun to play a bad girl.

AS: Many Ageless North Shore readers are redefining or reevaluating their lives and careers at midlife.  How have you managed to maintain such an active career in a field notoriously interested in youth?

Andrea at New York’s Metropolitan Room. (photo by Richard Termine )

AM: Well, you know, I’m in a period of crossroads.  I’ve been mature enough to play mothers for almost a quarter of a century.  This business owes us nothing.  Who wants to wait two years to sing two great songs in a show?  That’s why cabaret is so incredibly appealing. No one wants to see, you know, a “seasoned” 17-year-old sing cabaret.  It took me years to feel comfortable  with cabaret; it’s easier to sing for 6000 people than for 60.  You have to deal with the people and their energy…but once you face it, it’s liberating.

Now I have so many great stories and I can chat with the audience.  It’s a live version of what a book would be, but it’s all off the top my head.  I’ve had a lot of funny experiences! Who else performs for the queen at 13? I mean, Catherine Zeta Jones was my Molly in London.  No one could pronounce her name — we called her Zeetie.  It’s just interesting to see where everybody ends up.

My story is a success story — theater is what I love. I was lucky.  Now you have to go and do tv just to get the roles you want.  Since Broadway went corporate it’s just such a machine.  It changed everything.  It’s all marketing.  I mean, when you see reality tv show stars getting roles…it’s tough.  But in theater,you do it for the love of it.  And I love what I do.

For tickets to an “Evening of Song, ANDREA MCARDLE with Doug Peck on the piano”, Sunday, May 16th at 2:30pm click here.

Amy Shearn is the author of  How Far Is the Ocean from Here. Her work has appeared in Jane, West Branch, Salt Hill, and elsewhere. She lives in Brooklyn with a husband, a baby and a dog. Visit her online at

NOTE: This interview is re-posted, with permission, from Ageless Northshore:

Wednesday Wordplay: Liberace believes in you

A hobby a day keeps the doldrums away.
            — Phyllis Mcginley

Abundance is, in large part, an attitude.
            — Sue Patton Thoele

Your idea doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be yours alone. The more the idea is yours alone, the more freedom you have to do something really amazing. The more amazing, the more people will click with your idea. The more people click with your idea, the more it will change the world.
            — Hugh Macleod, How To Be Creative: 2, 08-22-04

Nobody will believe in you unless you believe in yourself.
  — Liberace

Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of ‘crackpot’ than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.
            — Thomas J. Watson