A dark, funny play with vengeful seduction at its very heart will close out the current season of Actors’ Theatre of Columbus in Schiller Park.
“Les Liaisons Dangereuses” opens at 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 15, and will be performed at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays through Sept. 1 at the park’s amphitheater.
All performances are free and open to the public.
Written by Christopher Hampton, the play is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos.
Also widely known as “Dangerous Liaisons” by English-speaking audiences, the story centers on Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont, former lovers who take great glee in their manipulation and exploitation of those they have seduced.
Philip J. Hickman, artistic director of “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” and co-director of the play, said it fits in well with the season’s theme: “Tainted Love.”
“First and foremost, ‘Les Liaisons Dangereuses’ is a great play,” said Hickman, who also plays Vicomte de Valmont.
Set in the 1780s, it follows the methods of the original production.
“It was a vastly successful show in London and on Broadway in the late 1980s,” Hickman said. “In constructing a season about the difficulties of love, it seemed like an obvious choice to include, as it is a play largely about the abuse and misuse of love.”
The two devise a plot: de Valmont is out to seduce a married woman who is staying with Valmont’s aunt for a short period. De Merteuil, meanwhile, plans to corrupt a young woman fresh out of the convent and sent to be married to none other than Merteuil’s previous lover.
In the end, it appears the two co-conspirators have become dangerously entangled in their own scheme and suffer brutal consequences.
“ ‘Les Liaisons Dangereuses’ is funny, dark, romantic and scandalous,” Hickman said. “The witty dialogue and relational twists are dramatic and sharp. It’s always a good time to see great stage villains and see them get what they deserve in the end.”
Beth Josephsen, who plays de Merteuil, said the character has to be “very careful of not letting people know she is sleeping with more than one person. She has to keep that hidden.”
“It’s definitely a challenging role,” Josephsen said. “There’s a good character arc to it. She is a very interesting character to play. You can relate to her even now even when she talks about oppression.”
Schiller Park is at 1069 Jaeger St. in German Village.