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Review: 3rd Act Twists and Turns with Marquis de Sade's OXTIERN

OXTIERN is one of the few surviving works of Marquis de Sade. The play is hefty and chilling, and it's deftly done at 3rd Act Theatre Company.

Review: 3rd Act Twists and Turns with Marquis de Sade's OXTIERN

Marquis de Sade was a French philosopher, writer, and general deviant who rose to infamy in the 18th century. de Sade is credited for bringing to light the set of ideas that are now referred to as Sadism, and was known for works that were sexually violent and controversial to say the least. Many of his works were conveniently lost or admittedly destroyed, victims of censorship that was not uncommon for the times. de Sade's free, libertine lifestyle, opinions, and writings were especially shocking considering his place as a gentleman in the French aristocracy.

One of his more palatable works is the 1800 play Oxtiern, or The Misfortunes of Libertinage, which is undoubtedly a response piece to the aristocracy and all those who judged him so harshly. 3rd Act Theatre Company presents this gorgeous work as a part of their Noire series, running through February at their North Park Mall stage.

de Sade was clearly a philosopher and a poet, and the dialogue in this show is more like prose than vernacular. The play is not the easiest to follow, and speaks directly to the higher education and sophistication that were available only to the elite nobles of the 1700s. Even today, it's rich and complex, and requires a fair amount of concentration for the audience. Production director Dakota Lee Bryant knew this going into the production, and cast the show accordingly. Each player is not only a skilled actor but also a skilled pronouncer, bringing back the long-lost art of projecting that too many over-mic'ed performers no longer possess.

Taylor Reich is Fabrice, an innkeeper in Stockholm who awaits the arrival of Count Oxtiern. Brian Mueller is Casimir, Oxtiern's valet. Reich and Mueller open the show, preparing for the arrival of Oxtiern and nervously awaiting his appearance. Reich and Mueller are both proper and professional, but aptly anxious for this dreaded character to arrive. Oxtiern's travel companion arrives first, and she's all the worse for the wear. Ernestine is portrayed by Kat Adams, a new favorite to 3rd Act audiences, and she's always a delight to see. Ernestine is out for blood, and she doesn't care whose, as long as Oxtiern isn't allowed to carry out his evil plans. Oxtiern plans to marry Ernestine, and it's not the only thing he's done against Ernestine's will. Adams is a strong performer, and not one to be messed with. Her opening scene is passionate and fraught with emotion and anger, and it sets in motion the events to come.

The appearance of Oxtiern is dreaded and anticipated, and the Count makes quite an entrance. Oxtiern is portrayed by Matt C. Cross. Cross is cool and smooth as Oxtiern, absolutely unbothered by any hate and vitriol thrown their way. Cross is a newcomer to the Oklahoma City scene, and hopefully one we will see more often. Cross is loveable and hate-able, creepy, sexy and conniving as Oxtiern, and they're perfectly suited for the duality of this dark character.

Dani Becker is Derbac, Oxtiern's muse and confidant. Becker is a sultry instigator, enjoying the mayhem and drama surrounding Oxtiern. Denise Hughes is Ernestine's companion Amelie. Hughes has clear disdain for Oxtiern, maintaining composure only for the sake of propriety. Edmund Gert is Colonel Falkenheim, Ernestine's father. Gert is determined to avenge the wrongs done to his daughter. His performance is inspired and heartfelt, impassioned and gripping. A standout performance is given by DeShawn Young as Charles/Herman, rounding out a strong cast of professional actors.

Oxtiern is meaty and dense, a heck of a feat to portray on stage, and its controversy is subtle yet profound. It's 220 years old but disturbingly timely and relevant. Director Bryant and 3rd Act have once again produced a thought-provoking, unique play that is both stirring and chilling. Oxtiern is truly a play for thinkers. Theatre is, after all, art for thinkers, and this production will ensure you continue to think about it, even long after final bows.

Oxtiern, or The Misfortunes of Libertinage runs until February 21st at 3rd Act Theatre Company, inside North Park Mall. Masks are required for all patrons. The closing performance is streamed online only February 21st. For tickets, visit

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From This Author - Adrienne Proctor

Adrienne Proctor is an Oklahoma City-based writer, theatre-goer, and mom. An avid supporter of the arts, Adrienne has reviewed regional, university, and Broadway theatre productions since 2017... (read more about this author)

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