Review: OU University Theatre Takes No Prisoners with MARIE ANTOINETTE

OU University Theatre's dramatic take on real-life revolutionary royal Marie Antoinette runs through April 30th.

By: Apr. 23, 2023
Review: OU University Theatre Takes No Prisoners with MARIE ANTOINETTE
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The University of Oklahoma's Fine Arts department offers a fresh take on one of the world's oldest cautionary tales. Marie Antoinette by David Adjmi tells the true story of the infamous queen of France who sparked a revolution. Marie Antoinette is a legend in our times. She's everything the social media influencers of today wish to become. She was rich, extravagant, powerful, and famous. Materialistic to a fault, privileged, and bratty, she was the ultimate queen. The kingdom over which she ruled came to hate her, and they ultimately proved themselves to be her downfall. She was villainized in history and the revolution she sparked became the story of France's freedom.

Marie Antoinette was all these things and more, but she was also human, and a young one at that. She was only 14 when she married, and still a teenager when she became queen of France. The charge of this play, and the cast in OU's Drama Department, is to show her humanity and make a larger-than-life historical figure feel relatable.

Led by guest director Melissa Rain Anderson, the cast accomplishes just that. Elyssa Armenta is Marie Antoinette. Armenta brings this infamous queen to life, showing the hardship and struggles of a queen whose humanity has been lost to time. This is a meaty, robust role, and Armenta pulls it off with ease, leaving the audience breathless as they hang on her every word. Armenta has regal grace and poise that make her a natural queen. This role is tough, emotionally taxing, and dense with dialogue. It's no easy feat to play this character, and Armenta makes it her own.

Evan Wolfe is comical as Marie's husband, King Louis XVI. Wolfe has lighthearted moments and serious ones, and he holds his own weight during them all. Wolfe has amusing chemistry with Regan Rodgers, who portrays Marie's brother Joseph. Rodgers is frustrated with his sister and her king. Before their infamous beheadings, the biggest hardship looming over the royal marriage was their infertility. The banter between Rodgers and Wolfe over this very topic is a welcome break from the heavy tension of the show.

Joseph Hoffman is Axel Fersen, Marie's friend and confidant. The world called them lovers, and as the accusations against her grew, so did their complex relationship. Hoffman is loyal in this role, a true friend to the doomed queen.

Cassie Pierce and McCall McCarty are striking as courtiers and friends Therese and Yolande. They love Marie but can't solve her problems, despite their best intentions. Their gorgeous candytuft wigs and opulent dresses are delicious to behold and look fun to wear. The work of wig design by Brawna Gfeller and costumes by Lloyd Cracknell are on excellent display with this period piece, and especially so with these two characters.

The cast is completed by Ethan Walker as The Dauphin, Devin Ricklef and Lilly McCullough as Mr. and Mrs. Sauce, Granger Lusk as the Royalist, and Eli Farney, Xavier Gutierrez, and Granger Lusk as the Guards. A standout performance is given by Nattalie Skylar Spring as A Sheep.

Scenic design by Steven Kendall is cozy in OU's black box style Weitzenhoffer Theatre, and no seat is a bad one.

Marie Antoinette was as much victim as she was villain. She saw the error of her ways much after it was too late to do anything about it. She was a queen, a ruler, a woman, and a deeply flawed human. She was executed after the impoverished started a war; the powerless against the powerful. But she never truly had any power, much less any choice. And as she points out in the show, she did exactly what any of us would do in her place.

It's up to the audience to decide whether she was a bad person or a good one, or if she was simply like all of us, a victim of circumstance, a real person trying to make the best of life, and a survivor to the bitter end.

Marie Antoinette runs through April 30, 2023 in the Weitzenhoffer Theatre on OU's Norman campus. Visit theatre.ou.edu.

**photo credit and special thanks to Drew Lotter**


 


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