‘Marie’: The regrets of a reviled royal

CAMBRIDGE — Playwright David Adjmi’s “Marie Antoinette” is an entertaining and incisive look at history’s most reviled royal.
“Marie” is having its world premiere at the Loeb Drama Center in a co-production by the American Repertory Theatre and Yale Repertory Theatre.
Adjmi has fun building the case for Marie’s ultimate demise in the first act, and then tacks 180 degrees later to show a woman who may have had no choice but to be what she was.
The final moments are reminiscent of a scene in “West Side Story” when the Jets tell Officer Krupke they aren’t to be blamed for what they’ve come — they’re a product of their environment. (“We’re depraved on account of we’re deprived.”)
Brooke Bloom’s Marie is a bad-mannered, ill-tempered and foul-mouthed queen, married at 14 in an effort to fuse the Hapsburg Empire of Austria with the court of Louis XV of France.
There are echoes of “Clueless” in her demeanor and her dismissal of all those around her, and costume designer Gabriel Berry gilds the lilly a bit by outfitting her and two other members of her court with three-foot-high wig (supported by guide wires) just in case we were wondering just how over-the-top was her conspicuous consumption while her subjects starved.

 David Greenspan as an all-knowing sheep visits Marie Antoinette (Brooke
Bloom)  in prison in a scene from “Marie Antoinette.” Photo: ART

Stephen Rattazzi is a foppish King Louis XVI, who owes much to Mel Brooks’ Louis in “History of the World, Part I.” Marie scolds him for both his failures in the bedroom and what she perceives to be his failures as a monarch. “Has it ever occurred to you to run France?”
Adjmi takes steps to humanize Marie in her scenes with her lover, Axel Fersen (Jake Silbermann), who does his best to show the woman underneath the wigs and dresses, the little girl disguised as a queen.
“Marie” is also about isolation, and the consequences of isolating yourself from all that’s going on around you — in this case, the events leading to the French Revolution. The queen is well aware of the geopolitical overtones of her marriage , and  that many in her court — and many of her subjects — do not trust her.
And even when a very well-informed sheep — played by David Greenspan — does his best to post red flags about the upcoming storm, she is unable to heed his call.
When the royal family attempts to escape to Varennes , they are so ill-informed about the circumstances of their subjects — including how they act, talk and dress and that they are overtaxed and starving — they are easily captured.
In her final moments before the guillotine, stripped of her jewelry, her extravagant clothing, her hair, and finally her humanity, there are poignant moments and plenty of regret in Marie’s exchanges with Brian Wiles as a brutal guard.
Adjmi has points to make concerning social justice income inequality, but he manages to convey them without beating theater-goers over the head.

“Marie Antoinette,” by David Adjmi, directed by Rebecca Taichman, through Sept. 29 at the Loeb Drama Center, Brattle Street, Cambridge. A co-production of the American Repertory Theatre and Yale Repertory Theatre. http://www.americanrepertorytheatre.org.

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