Yass, Queen! Marie Antoinette’s Girl’s Guide to Royalty

July 28, 2017 by JULIE GARISTO | PERFORMING ARTS, VISUAL ARTS
From left, clockwise, Ariel Reich, Megan Therese Rippey and Matthew McGee in Marie Antoinette.
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Megan Therese Rippey as Marie Antoinette. Photo by Allison Lynn Photography.

freeFall Theatre Company‘s production of Marie Antoinette (the last in this season’s series of true stories) unfolds like a fabulous reality show gone wrong —a Keeping up with the Capetians, if you will — with clever anachronisms and moments of magical realism.

Playwright David Adjmi’s 2006 revamp of the infamous doomed monarch takes us to Versailles before and during the French Revolution. His take on Marie seems to be a girl interrupted, effectively brought to life by star Megan Therese Rippey.

The scene-stealer, of course, is Matthew McGee. His turn as the queen’s imaginary livestock companion is baaaaadass. (More on him later.)

Staged with an alternative layout — a freeFall forte — Marie Antoinette nods and winks to the tropes of runway fashion with the audience on either sides as if watching a Chanel show. Its minimal set changes are choreographed with deadpan sashays as electronic pop pulsates and slideshows project on the walls. Historic dates are provided with manic collages of 18th century masterpieces and photos of the cast between scenes.

Distracted and vacuous, Marie Antoinette resents her frivolous reputation while trying to quote lofty ideas without actually reading them in books. She revels in nature but can’t immerse herself in it. She laments her tawdry reputation but proceeds to copulate with the entire royal guard. Born too early in our sociological evolution to be called sexually liberated or diagnosed with ADHD, she fills the void of homesickness with hedonistic abandon and pastoral pastimes until she’s eventually imprisoned and beheaded a few years shy of her 40th birthday.

The excesses, of course, mirror the manic consumption of our current consumerist society and fame fetishes. While Adjmi’s play doesn’t swim outside the shallow pool of social consciousness, he doesn’t gloss over events leading up to the end of the French monarchy either. As director/freeFall Artistic DirectorEric Davis’s explains in his interview with Watermark, Marie Antoinette is more about how perceptions of celebrity than an examination of the queen’s life. It’s a pastiche of complementary sensibilities like Marie Antoinette herself.

freeFall’s production, another success thanks to the aesthetic genius of Davis and his formidable coterie (Cody Basham, lighting designer; Nickolas Mathis, properties designer), brims with satire and style, marrying history with a contemporary art fever dream a la Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet — especially in its presentation.

In the spirit of this tres vogue show, Creative Pinellas offers fashion magazine-style pointers on what all girls (and boys and everyone in between) can learn from the play:

1.) Sometimes success means marrying a buffoon, but you can still get it on with the guard. 

Take a cue from Marie Antoinette, who had her cake and ate it too — in more ways than one.  Allow your emotionally stunted hubby (Lucas Wells) to indulge in his clockmaking hobby, but keep him in check and make him attend his doctor appointments so you don’t continue to get blamed for being barren.

Matthew McGee as a stylish and sage sheep.  Credit: Steven Le — The Photo Ninja.

2.) Dress up your side thing like eye candy for both girls and boys.

Make your hunky paramour on the side (Haulston Mann) wear black leather, no shirt and studded epaulets. Le purr.

3.) Dress yourself and friends with the expert advice of a top-notch designers.

Costume designer David Covach combines trendy casual tees and sunglasses with ruffly skirts along with other irreverent updates of 18th century royal couture; like Vivienne Westwood in Candyland. Wig designer Parker Lawhorne weaves ships and other objects into fab up-do’s.

4.) Your life story should always include sassy one-liners.

The dialogue in Marie Antoinette does not go over your head. Think more Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie than Athos and Aramis — but David Adjmi’s script sprinkles enough wit and mischief to earn a bow from Dumas himself. Two examples:”The night Louis and I were married there was a violent thunderstorm and they had to cancel the fireworks, and it’s been like that ever since” and  “Three feet of hair is a workout.”

5.) When you hallucinate an ovine companion, make it one truly gets you, commands your attention and keeps you from harm’s way. Furthermore, make him wear stylish white mohair and big white sunglasses.

Your imaginary sheep-mate should be like Matthew McGee — smart, honest and unafraid to tell you like it is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Minimalist Altar of Fonchen Lord, at MFA through Oct. 1
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