Archive for January 2011

“Emilie —La Marquise De Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight” at Arts West

Catch it now because I can’t believe this play won’t wind up on Broadway with a top actress playing the title role. The play’s attention to women’s issues gives it contemporary significance, yet it’s set in the 18th C. It’s intellectual yet lascivious. It feeds mind, soul, and funny bone.

Emilie was a real person who was allowed by her father to study math and physics when females weren’t even encouraged to read. This French upper class woman proved to have one of the finest minds of the 18th C. and devoted her short life to study and writing. Inevitably she met Voltaire, and bazoom–lightening struck. Theirs was a love between intellectual equals who shared a healthy appetite for sex. But societal norms, gave much more power and status to Voltaire just because he was a man, even though some of her concepts were more valid than his. Their intellectual disagreements led to separation, new lovers, and then Emilie’s death.

In Lauren Gunderson’s play, Emilie returns from the dead to take stock. Passion or reason, love or philosophy? What is it that matters most in life? That exploration is brilliantly conceived and produced. The play circles round and round in its exploration of Emilie’s dual nature. Intellectual explorations with Voltaire compete with lusty sexual encounters. Emilie stops and talks to the audience. She tells then shows.

Director Susanna Wilson has ingeniously mounted this work. Her production is played on a stark black stage with a minimum of props, but the costumes are so gorgeous that they light up the theatre. The superb cast, moves back and forth between mannered even slapstick performance and emotional intensity. Her production is filled with contradictions, just as contradictions were at the core of Emilie’s life.

Through February 20 at Arts West, 4711 California Ave. SW, West Seattle, 206 938-0339 or www.ArtsWest.org