Feast of sins

Classic Theatre Company dishes up a tart, luxurious Les Liaisons Dangereuses

The real stand-outs are Matthew Stephen Tompkins, who has a face and body like Patrick Swayze and a masterful voice reminiscent of Kevin Kline, and Laurel Hoitsma, who avoids transforming the weak-willed Madame de Tourvel into the whiny, blubbering mass of fidgets that a lesser actress might. This is a character whose face must, for the length of the play, illustrate her internal battle between duty and need, and Hoitsma maintains a knock-out high-wire act that collapses in a climactic confrontation with the Vicomte. The scenes between her and Tompkins, who exudes a sexy swagger that's at once self-conscious but wholly integrated into his performance, are the most riveting.

Farrow's adaptation of Les Liaisons Dangereuses contains all the trademarks of Classic Theatre Company--a reliance on highly stylized tableaux and non-speaking interludes with music; robust, effective performances that sometimes loom too large for the Company's small space; and a relentless dramatic tempo that, depending on your tastes, will thrill or exhaust you. What Farrow has abandoned is her penchant for gimmicky stagings that reached its apex with a 1992 production of 'Tis Pity She's A Whore, in which the actors played certain scenes on a gigantic, multi-leveled platform on wheels. Her restless, ferocious imagination, even at its most unruly, is always a welcome change from the anemic amphitheater walk-ons of the Shakespeare Festival of Dallas.

Farrow seems to display far more discipline with original adaptations. She's more successful completely recasting the action based on her own imagination than simply gussying up a centuries-old script. In Les Liaisons Dangereuses, she seems more concerned with character motivation and the tight, almost dancerly stage blocking that will best illuminate it. Farrow conducts her actors in ever-tightening concentric circles of desperation and self-deception. For audiences tired of pointless reinterpretations, this production makes a happy marriage out of two seemingly irreconcilable strengths--respect for the classical tradition and raw, explosive, immediate emotions that grab you by the lapels and don't let go.

Les Liaisons Dangereuses runs through December 9 at the Basement Space. Call 423-3399.

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