‘Dangerous Liaisons’ critiques society on brink of moral collapse | PostIndependent.com

‘Dangerous Liaisons’ critiques society on brink of moral collapse

Kristin Carlson
Colorado Mountain College
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
Photo Scot GerdesAmanda Soto as Emilie (a courtesan) and Eric Lamb as Le Vicomte de Valmont are featured in "Dangerous Liaisons," presented by CMC Theatre at Colorado Mountain College's campus in Spring Valley Feb. 10-11, 16-18 at 7 p.m., and Feb. 12 and 19 at 2 p.m.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Christopher Hampton’s play, “Dangerous Liaisons,” a searing look at leisure and wealth gone wrong, opens at Colorado Mountain College in Glenwood Springs-Spring Valley tonight.

“I wanted to do a true actor’s piece,” said Gary Ketzenbarger, director of the production and of Colorado Mountain College’s theater program. “What will hold people in their seats is the psychologically driven drama, the study of manners, the duplicity of the characters and the strength of the actors to carry the story.”

“Somehow the play speaks to our social conditions today,” Ketzenbarger said. “I had no social agenda when I chose it. I just liked the language and the psychological complexity.

“But as our rehearsals evolved, I saw how applicable it is,” he said. “The characters in this play are the ‘1 percent’ of their day.”

“The play offers a close look at the libertine world, where the usual social contracts are broken,” said Eric Lamb, who plays the Vicomte de Valmont. “All bets are off in a society where there’s absolute freedom and no accountability.”

The plot of “Dangerous Liaisons” is set into motion by a fateful bet between the Marquise de Merteuil and her former lover, the Vicomte de Valmont. Privileged and bored, Merteuil challenges the Vicomte to seduce the virginal Cecile Volanges. He declines, protesting that the gullible girl would prove easy prey.

The Vicomte then turns his attentions to seducing La Presidente de Tourvel, the chaste wife of a parliamentarian. If the Vicomte can seduce her, and provide proof of the conquest in writing, the Madame Marquise will consent to sleep with her former lover one last time.

Thus begins a parade of deceptions, half-truths and romantic machinations that will ultimately destroy lives and ruin reputations.

Kelly Ketzenbarger plays Merteuil, a character made famous by Glenn Close in the 1988 Academy Award-winning film. “It’s a tough role,” said director Gary Ketzenbarger. “Merteuil without humanity and vulnerability is uninteresting.”

To avoid creating simple stereotypes of good people and bad people, the cast strives to understand the complex set of mixed motives that drive each character. “One of Merteuil’s redeeming qualities,” said Ketzenbarger, “is that she rebels against the powerlessness of women of her era.”

Lamb, newcomer to the CMC stage, portrays the Vicomte de Valmont. “The real challenge,” he said, “is finding all the levels of truth and deception. When I’m seducing Tourvel, the model of virtue, I have to pretend to be good. Later on in the play, once I do fall for her, I have to pretend I don’t care about her while I destroy her life.”

Cassidy Willey, current CMC theatre student and graduate of CU Boulder, plays the virtuous Tourvel. “It’s a very emotional role,” she said. “This righteous and proud woman betrays everything she’s built her life on for this man. And it’s all built on a lie, a game.”

The intrigue grows more complicated when Madame de Volanges, played by Jennifer Schiller, tries to interfere with the Vicomte’s seduction of Tourvel and unwittingly draws her daughter, Cecile, played by Robin Parent, into the game.

Sue Lavin, who often occupies the director’s chair in CMC and Thunder River Theatre Company productions, portrays Madame de Rosemonde. “It’s great to be on stage and experience the style of another director,” Lavin said.

A strong cast of student actors completes the ensemble. Chris Kimball plays Le Chevalier Danceny; Graeme Duke portrays the valet, Azolan; Amanda Soto is Emilie, the courtesan; and Chris Walsh plays the Major Domo. CMC students Jarred Majkut, Brittany Chicon and Jaime Sklavos step in as household servants.

“I think it’s great how many students are in the play and on the crew,” said Willey. “It speaks well of the program that so many people want to be involved.”

Theater student Cody Hill is the stage manager, China Kwan coordinated the costuming, with the elaborate 18th century garments constructed by Ardyce Clancy and assistant seamstresses Christine Chapman and Dixie McClenahan, Wayne Pleasants created the light design, and Brad Moore and Willey co-designed the set.

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