The tone of The Deception is set in its opening moment. Instead of rising to the eaves in the typical stately fashion, a shimmering green curtain drops to the floor and is immediately yanked offstage by an unseen mechanism. As though the falling curtain had been a checkered flag, the drama behind the curtain roars into action, hurtling at breakneck speed through a course of love, lies, and bribes. If most theater goes to 10, this adaptation of an eighteenth-century French play goes to 11: Dangerous Liaisons on crystal meth.
The Deception, a play adapted by Steven Epp and Dominique Serrand from La Fausse Suivante by Marivaux; directed by Dominique Serrand. Runs through November 25 at Theatre de la Jeune Lune, 105 N. First St., Minneapolis. Tickets $20-$28; call (612) 333-6200.
The plot concerns a Parisian woman who (correctly) believes that the man she has been arranged to marry has become much more than friendly with a certain contessa. To thwart the affair, she dresses as a man; as “the Chevalier,” she hopes to win the contessa’s heart and thwart the affair. But the Chevalier doesn’t have a monopoly on deceit: Each character, including each servant, has a hidden agenda that may or may not boil down to pure lucre.
The emotions in this production are as saturated as Douglas Sirk’s Technicolors. The principals run around the stage in a state of keyed-up, angry confusion suggesting the mood of one who has just found his or her spouse in bed with a supermodel. The confusion, however, is very deliberate—the actors’ physical and verbal interplay, as the plot careens through one hairpin turn after another, suggests dance as much as drama.
Visually, the production is as gorgeous as any you’re likely to see on a local stage this season. Moving panels of painted glass become an entire world thanks to the dynamic lighting design, and the costumes’ restrained color scheme makes the Chevalier’s emergence in a bright pink dress a heart-stopping transformation.
This production does, however, pay a price for its dazzling style. The action is so fast and furious that, with the exception of the laconic servant Trivelin, the characters hardly seem to come up for breath. The creative team at Jeune Lune has created a distinctive and alluring onstage universe, even if the richly styled characters aren’t always recognizable as actual human beings. At one point, a frustrated character screams a line that, with its mixture of criticism and undeniable awe, aptly describes the entire production. “You,” the man cries at his would-be lover, “are SO FUCKING INTENSE!”
Jay Gabler is a writer based in St. Paul, specializing in culture, the arts, and entertainment.