David Adjmi’s Marie Antoinette, a star turn for Woolly company member Kimberly Gilbert, has some affinities with the 2006 film of the same name by Sofia Coppola, but it also recalls Adjmi’s Stunning from 2008: a sheltered, privileged young woman, bratty at times and certainly ill-equipped to deal with the wider world, is hobbled by the man in her life, someone who proves to be weaker than she. Adjmi’s Marie says, “I feel like a game that other people play, but not me.” As her marzipan and fondant world dissolves all around her, this Marie’s journey is to a smaller, quieter place where she acquires some measure of fortitude, even in the hour of her doom.
The theatrical exaggeration and the “snapshots” of the famous lines from history in this script and production remind us that what we think we know about Marie’s story is only framing, not knowledge at all.
As events fall out and the pretty venue of the Petit Trianon disassembles into Marie’s prison, the complex set changes (e.g., rolling up a grass carpet to expose an iron-mesh deck) call for visible crew members to make the shifts—a rare, welcome sight at Woolly. Indeed, is this disassembly or dissembling: how many layers of artifice do the technicians need to peel away?
Sarah Marshall’s work as Sheep is expressive, even though her puppet has no articulation, just a head stuck on a pole. Ominous and playful, sometimes a head cock is all that’s needed.
- Marie Antoinette, by David Adjmi, directed by Yury Urnov, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Washington