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"Marie Antoinette: The Color of Flesh" at St. Luke's Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Salon Ziba

200 West 57th Street
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Earl Productions Presents:
(Earl Productions Website)
Marie Antoinette: The Color of Flesh
(Marie Antoinette Bio)
St. Luke’s Theatre
Operated by Edmund Gaynes
And West End Artists Company
308 West 46th Street

By Joel Gross
Directed by Robert Kalfin

Featuring: Samantha Ives, Amanda Jones,
Jonathan Kells Phillips, Hugo Salazar, Jr.

Stage Movement by Cailin Heffernan
Scenic Design: Kevin Judge
Costume Design: T. Michael Hall
Lighting Design: Paul Hudson
Projection Design: Karl Scholz
Sound Design: Merek Royce Press
Production Stage Manager: D.C. Rosenberg
Press: Scotti Rhodes Publicity
Asst. Director: Michael Tartaglia

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
July 25, 2008

Setting: Paris, Versailles, Vienna – 1774-1793

Marie Antoinette has always been an absorbing subject, but, in Joel Gross’ new play, she’s even more absorbing, as charming, sophisticated dialogue grips the viewers and transports them through two decades of loneliness, friendship, passion, and two revolutions. Those Revolutions, in France and America, tie the dialogue, which I must emphasize, is so eloquent, that it almost reads as poetry. Elizabeth Louise Vigée le Brun (Samantha Ives) is a true life portrait artist, who worked her way into the Royal Court from humble beginnings. In Gross’ production, the vehicle for le Brun’s success is Count Alexis de Ligne (Jonathan Kells Phillips), and, as they say, le Brun uses the oldest professional device to get him to introduce her to Marie Antoinette (Amanda Jones) and the King. Meanwhile, another simultaneous affair occurs between “Toinette” and the Count, and so goes Versailles.

When the people of Paris begin to starve, the Count begins to speak for their cause, much to the chagrin of the Court. The dialogue becomes a bit complex, as the three seduce each other psychically, and themes of betrayal and forgiveness weave through the second act like golden threads, as elegant as the silky, bouffant dresses worn by the female leads. But, as complex as the dialogue may become, the story of this Court is renowned, and we await the remorse and metamorphosis of the doomed Toinette and her conflicted friends. Amanda Jones, as Marie Antoinette, creates an evolving maturity in her character, from lonely and naïve, to sexually curious and repulsed, to vulnerable and impassioned, to maternal and aware, to resigned and doomed. Ms. Jones not only changes costumes and makeup, as she awaits her fate in the Conciergerie, the 18th Century Paris prison, but she also changes persona.

Jonathan Kells Phillips, too, matures from rogue Casanova to a soldier for Lafayette, who is badly wounded on return to France, but filled with pride and patriotism for the plight of the people. I would have wished the Count to be a true character, for “Toinette” to have had even the smallest pleasure during her tormented life. She was forced in her early teens into an arranged marriage for Royal and political convenience, the joining of Austrian and French interests. All things Austrian, clothing and belongings, were left en route, and she arrived in France with everything new and foreign, including Louis XVI. He was an immature, poor lover who left her yearning for love, as it’s told, and then there was the Count. Perfect story line, and Joel Gross threads this tale with gilded language, enunciated and enacted with flawless refinement. In fact, this play could make a superb radio reading, as the three actors say so much and say it so well. At moments, I imagined lush palace gardens or crowded Parisian squares.

The fourth actor is mime (Hugo Salazar, Jr.), a servant with a coat and wig, who behaves in an orderly, obedient manner at first, followed by a rumbling, revolutionary demeanor. The servant changes props, sets the mood, and points to screen graphics of time and place. Mr. Salazar, Jr. is dutiful then petulant, as he silently connects to the audience. As Toinette, Ms. Jones exudes a level of professionalism and confidence, warmth and porcelain beauty, that add luster to her polished performance. Ms. Ives is charismatic and clever, as the personality that drives the drama, and Mr. Phillips is charming and assured, as he discovers genuine worth. T. Michael Hall’s costumes are worth seeing this production, on their own. The refined lines of the courtly dresses and the Count’s suit (well worn after the American War journey), speak to research and authenticity. Kevin Judge’s simple sets that frame Karl Scholz’ projections are sized and designed for the intimate St. Luke’s Theatre stage.

Kudos to Joel Gross, Robert Kalfin, Director, and the cast of Marie Antoinette: The Color of Flesh.

Amanda Jones and Jonathan Kells Phillips
in "Marie Antoinette: The Color of Flesh"
Courtesy of Nicole Szalewski

Samantha Ives and Amanda Jones
in "Marie Antoinette: The Color of Flesh"
Courtesy of Nicole Szalewski

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at