To kick off their new season this month, A.R.T. will be premiering a play to really lose your head over. (Wait, don’t leave! That’s the only time I’ll make that joke!)
Aside from insisting they eat cake, making some pretty extreme couture choices, and eventually getting her head lopped off by angry peasants, playwright David Adjmi insists that there’s a lot we don’t know–or choose to forget–about Mrs. King Louis XVI.
“I think so many people have tried to dramatize her story,” says Adjmi. “And for me it’s not so much about what happened to her but about how it happened.
This play is a little bit more expressionistic. The sensibility is a bit more torqued than some of the other interpretations … it’s a bit surreal.”
When Adjmi first set out to write the play, he realized it was a comedy pretty quickly. “I didn’t really question it, I just got caught up in the frenzy of it, “ he says. “This character is one who really likes to have fun and really like to enjoy things against this backdrop that is just so dire.” For example, Marie had rooms renovated with higher ceilings so that her wigs would fit. “Those crazy, over-the-top wigs that were such a huge part of her life. I just found it so funny.”
Despite the ridiculousness of many of the queen’s habits, there’s a definite relevance for today’s society. After all, Antoinette was the ultimate one-percent-er: her monarchy allowed zero taxation for her rich buddies, so while the bankrupt country’s peasants were starving to death, Marie & Co. enjoyed lavish opulence and had the ability to do whatever the hell they wanted all the time without any consequences.
The peasants, realizing it was pretty damn unfair, rioted in the streets. Sound familiar?
“This play was written in 2006, during the Bush years, so we had a different level of insensitivity and greed. And then, of course, it cycles back again. A.R.T. and Yale had already planned the play for their season before Occupy Wall Street, and I remember calling that director and saying that it was so uncannily weird! This woman is always in the zeitgeist, and I found it startling. Not surprising, really—there is inequity all the time and people are struggling with it in our culture.”
But aside from the opulent and surreal backdrop Adjmi drew from, he also wanted to get to the root of Marie’s materialism. Like the wigs! “I feel that this character has an enormous void and all this emptiness, and she’s trying to fill it up with cosmetic means. She created this thing called the hameau; this bizarre pastoral landscape–kind of like her Epcot–where she could get close to ‘nature.’
She just created this immaculately manicured landscape that would be her sanitized version of nature. And this was her way to get close to something.”
And the parallels with today kept coming, says Adjmi. “She had to find a way to get close to something true, and even that has to be created for her. I found that very poignant. It kind of reminded me of, like, Michael Jackson.”
So, going into this production think, “Michael Jackson meets Occupy Wall Street in France.”
A.R.T. PRESENTS MARIE ANTOINETTE
SATURDAY 9.1.-SATURDAY 9.29.12.
LOEB DRAMA CENTER.
64 BRATTLE ST.