Timeless classic’s theme rings true today

By Shari Goldstein Stern

With the #MeToo movement underscoring so much of what’s currently in the news, the arts can teach us that this abysmal conversation isn’t really “new” news. The historical roots of men regarding women as property are inescapable. More than three centuries ago, a French novelist named Pierre Cholerlos de Laclos wrote a novel that would still be relevant with the same elements in the 21st century. “Les Liaisons Dangereuses (LLD),” the theatrical adaptation by the same title opens Sunday, June 14th and runs through Sunday, July 8 at Theatre Three (T3).

This reincarnation of LLD features Cindee Mayfield, Charlotte Akin, Gayle Cronauer, Lydia Mackay and Brandon Potter and is written by Christopher Hampton. T3 introduces a new director, Tiffany Nichole Greene, to the company. According to T3 Artistic Director Jeffrey Schmidt: “Tiffany is allowing the modern and the classic to clash and collide and deal with other genres vs choosing only classic or modern viewpoints to tell the story. It is a fresh take. We are excited to have her on board and it’s always exciting to expose audiences to a new voice at T3.”

Arguably the story most often adapted to film and theater, T3’s new offering is based on Christopher Hampton’s 1959 film adaptation of the novel set in 18th-century France. The title became familiar with modern American audiences in 1998 when Glenn Close, Michelle Pfeiffer and John Malkovich sizzled on screen in the multi-award winning “Dangerous Liaisons.”

As recently as 2016, “National Theater Live” broadcast “Les Liaisons Dangereuses,” giving it a broader audience. Since 1959 there have been eight versions as feature films and televised as movies and mini-series, along with countless adaptations on the stage.

The timeliness becomes clear when you know some of its scandalous history before seeing the show.

According to Jason Crowley’s 2015 story in The Guardian in which he quoted the novelist: “‘I resolved to write a book that would be quite outside the ordinary trend, which would make a sensation and echo over the world after I left it,’ Pierre Ambroise François Choderlos de Laclos wrote of his first and only novel, ‘Les Liaisons Dangereuses.’”

The book was banned and denounced in France in 1782 as being immoral. (If only those readers read the news today!) But in the 1920s it was translated into English by the infamous Virginia Woolf, ultimately leading to the 1959 film starring Jeanne Moreau and Gérard Philipe. Notably, author Laclos left behind three unfinished pro-feminist essays on women’s education.

For an 18th century book’s story to be re-told for almost three centuries, there’s got to be something there.

“When I chose the show, I was thinking it was a recent Tony award winner, French classic that appealed to our patrons and subscribers and, while I chose it before the #MeToo movement, it has happened to parallel with that,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt added: “Selecting this season has been a lot like making new friends in that you shouldn’t put so much stock in first impressions … oh, who the hell am I kidding? First impressions are everything. This season is the groundwork for my relationship with patrons, artists, donors, etc. I want to let them know who I am, what I’m about and where I see the theatre heading in the future.”

“Les Liaisons Dangereuses” runs through July 8 at Theatre Three, 2800 Routh St., Dallas 75201. Tickets can be purchased online at tickets.theatre3dallas.com or call 214-871-3300.

Brandon Potter (left; Le Vicomte De Valmont), Lydia Mackay (La Presidente De Tourvel), and Cindee Mayfield (La Marquise De Merteiul). Photos by Jeffrey Schmidt