From Revolution to Revolution To Revolution… It’s In The Air

We saw David Adjmi’s Marie Antoinette last night at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. It was inspiring of awe and emulation. It reminded us, as per the director’s dictum, that “theater is about re-invention.” And this theater last night was about Revolution; a gruesome, successful and influential revolution. As last week’s Awake and Sing was about the dream of a different revolution, that failed to take hold in Jacob Berger’s lifetime, or the lifetime of his progeny. How different an evening of theater did we just experience, between the 1935 breakthrough classic by Odets, and this searing new play and production over at Woolly? I’m so eager to read of others’ experience of walking into Woolly for the first time; of experiencing the in-your-face audacity that was that immersive production’s quality… does it make you think of theater differently, to experience a history play that viscerally?

I’ll have more to share. This is just to get us started. Marie Antoinette and what it did to you: Go!

Kimberly Gilbert as Marie Antoinette, center, holds court in a Jacuzzi with two of her fabulous friends. (Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company)

Kimberly Gilbert as Marie Antoinette, center, holds court in a Jacuzzi with two of her fabulous friends. (Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company)

45 thoughts on “From Revolution to Revolution To Revolution… It’s In The Air

  1. David Adjmi’s “Marie Antoinette” as directed by Yury Urnov at the Woolly Mammoth Company quite possibly touched on every one of my emotions at some point during the play, so I find myself sitting in front of my computer with the almost impossible task of beginning a blog post. I can start by stating the obvious; the way the set was deconstructed (i.e., the side curtains falling to the ground, the green grass rolled up) was flawlessly executed. The vibrant colors are lost, the space seemingly becomes emptier, and the world of the stage becomes darker. As the set opens up and reveals the profane graffiti on the walls, so does Marie’s world as she continuously loses the very things she holds dear, until one of the only things left onstage is the bathtub. In fact, the bathtub is the very object Marie uses in the beginning of her play as a symbol of her carefree lifestyle, but by the end of the play, it is transformed into the suffocating trap that strips her of any remaining liberty. All in all, the set was beautifully constructed, and it served perfectly for a parallel to the larger issues present in the play.

    One point that was brought up during the post-show discussion is this idea of the 1% and whether the play generated sympathy for those who find themselves in a very privileged position. I would not go as far as to say that it creates sympathy for the 1%, so much as it generates pity. I found myself many times throughout the play saying, “Aw, poor Marie,” especially as she demonstrates her ignorance of education or expresses her unhappiness with Louis and strong desire to return to Austria. On top of all of this, in the beginning of the play, she feels pressure not only from the people of France, but also from her own relatives to produce an heir, lest she be labeled as “barren.” Marie is a clear example of someone who did not know what she was getting into when she signed onto such a position as Queen. Although in the reality at that time, the Queen was more of a “trophy wife” of the King with no real power. To me, the real responsibility of Marie should have been to maintain the reputation of the monarchy and boost the morale of the people, both of which she failed to do.

    I think it’s interesting that Marie’s situation seems to be one that America is approaching every day compared to the rest of the world. When this was brought up at the talkback last night, I had not thought of this while viewing the play; however, immediately after it was discussed, I felt silly for not recognizing it sooner! Americans may easily be seen as the “1%” to the rest of the world as we seemingly take wonderful opportunities for granted, much like Marie. Does Marie’s fate potentially foreshadow the future of America? With all of the conflicts going on in the Middle East and even the issues we face domestically, it certainly is an eerie question to ponder.

    All in all, hats off to a captivating, intelligent, and all around AMAZING production. I think Professor Roth put it best when he said that it’s a historic [history] play, but it didn’t feel like one. I learned a lot (and enjoyed it!) without feeling like the information was being shoved down my throat. Thank you for a great play!

    • I do agree with you that the play created sympathy for the 1% but I don’t think I would have had pity for her if I wasn’t living with the privileges I live with today. And in order to maintain the reputation of the monarchy and boost the morale of the people, she needed some education and her real responsibility should have been being aware and educated. But going off on that, I don’t think she had a sense of obligation or responsibility beyond what she was told to do because she never needed anything, as mentioned in the discussion afterwards. She never needed anything to harvest a sense of responsibility in her. Just a thought I wanted to add.

    • I think the idea of pity for the 1% is very intriguing. This play sought to play on the sentiments stirred up by recent protest movements and even the obsessive culture surrounding celebrities, and one almost feels sorry for Marie Antoinette. However, I think much of what she did was her own doing. Yes, she was thrust into power very early on, but her decisions were still just that: her decisions. I think this play presented the other side of a well-known historical figure, but I still cannot bring myself to pity someone like Marie Antoinette.

  2. Marie Antoinette at the Woolly Mammoth theatre was by far my favorite production we have seen so far this semester.

    In the post-play discussion, a hot topic was whether the story of Marie Antoinette embodies the current “1% vs 99%” political debate. I think that jumping to the conclusion that Marie Antoinette is an embodiment the 1% would be an extremely superficial: Two small groups that are extremely well-off do not necessarily have any more in common than that.

    Marie Antoinette never really does anything wrong. Spending frivolously was not a crime and was not at all unusual among French monarchs. Remember, this is a time when the palace of Versailles had recently been built by Louis XIV, spending monumental amounts to create this huge new castle outside of Paris.

    Even if Marie Antoinette had committed wrongdoings, her subordinate post as a woman removes culpability from her. It was Louis XVI’s job to run France and to manage the budget. She had to persuade him to make political decisions or give her money. At the end of the day, he is responsible.

    In this way, I think Marie Antoinette is in fact comparable to the “1%.” Most members of this elite wealth class have not done anything wrong, either. Many of them came up with great business ideas that thousands of people bought into. They couldn’t have gotten to where they are without their customers building them up, much like Marie Antoinette couldn’t have done much without the support of the King.

    I don’t think the metaphor extend well though, because the people of France and Marie Antoinette had an extremely different relationship dynamic than do the extremely rich and everyone else in modern-day America.

    This play builds sympathy for Marie Antoinette. She is funny, likable, and strikingly innocent of any wrongdoing. In this way, I think the play can show many people that the “1%” are people too—and that they’re the ones who are interesting to see a play about.

    • This is an interesting post, Sera. Your last two sentences read, “She is funny, likable, and strikingly innocent of any wrongdoing. In this way, I think the play can show many people that the “1%” are people too—and that they’re the ones who are interesting to see a play about.”

      The play does a great job of constructing Antoinette as a complex character that the audience cannot help but partially sympathize with. I would not say she is innocent of any wrongdoing, however. She was actually quite wrong to live so lavishly when French men and women and children were dying from starvation.

      She was not “innocent” but rather naive and ignorant because she did not have the proper tools to navigate adulthood or her role as a queen. Her lover tells her, “You never had time to crawl” at one point which reinforces the idea she was victim too, used as an object by her family to solidify an alliance between France and Austria, thrown into mature roles with no personal growth or maturity.

      Of course the 1% are people. In fact, it is because of that fact that one often finds it difficult to understand the corrupt and unethical behavior displayed by the 1% time after time towards their fellow man (we can take the collateralized debt obligation issue that lead to the global economic fallout in 2008 as a tangible example). Though those in the 1% deserve to be treated and thought of as humans, that does not make irresponsible behavior excusable.

      This play features people who some may refer to as representative of the “1%”. Whether you agree the French monarchs and U.S. corporate businessmen and women is a fair analogy to make, this play was interesting to watch because of whom Antoinette was and the historical context surrounding her life. Though the play and production were fantastic, I would say that the French Revolution from the varied perspectives (many of which are NOT from the 1% lens) of “Les Misérables” is much richer because it is representative of a reality many people lived in. For me, productions about the 1% (or about the elite) are not the most interesting.

    • Sera,
      I completely agree that it is really easy to feel bad for Marie Antoinette during this play. I didn’t even think about the fact that even if she wanted to do something, she really couldn’t have. As a woman, she wouldn’t have had the political power to make a change. This is why she acted the way she did. Her job was to look good and create an heir, everything else was basically up to her husband, who was failing at his job. Both members of the couple were extremely immature, but the blame is primarily on Louis XIV.

    • Sera,
      I liked your comments in the defense of Marie Antoinette. Like you, I do not think she should be at fault for her wealthy behavior because someone provided it for her, she did not know how to live on less, and before it was a problem, the King supported her spending. The play definitely shows that the 1% are people too, especially when Marie was shown in her backyard garden milking the cows, interacting with her friends, or talking to her child. However, I do think that the relationship between the 1% and 99% in this play can be compared to that in America today. The negative energy from the poor, wanting the rich to stop spending so frivolously and share their wealth is definitely seen in America.
      Sera,
      I liked your comments in the defense of Marie Antoinette. Like you, I do not think she should be at fault for her wealthy behavior because someone provided it for her, she did not know how to live on less, and before it was a problem, the King supported her spending. The play definitely shows that the 1% are people too, especially when Marie was shown in her backyard garden milking the cows, interacting with her friends, or talking to her child. However, I do think that the relationship between the 1% and 99% in this play can be compared to that in America today. The negative energy from the poor, wanting the rich to stop spending so frivolously and share their wealth is definitely seen in America.

  3. One thing I found intriguing about “Marie Antoinette” was the repeated reference to the image of wings. Axel Fersen often called Marie his “butterfly queen” and would talk about her with the image of her possessing flittering wings. Marie would often call herself a caged bird and how she was unable to flap her wings and escape. I saw the obvious reference to Marie’s upbringing, how she was always under watch, her life was never her control, and she always felt confined in her surroundings. In a way Marie was very much a bird trapped inside a cage. She had hopes of seeing Austria and getting to go wherever she wanted and would talk about them ambitiously like a bird trying to flap its wings. She was also stuck inside her own cage, her palace in France.

    However, I also saw the comparison of Marie Antoinette as a winged creature as a reference to what the actress who plays her, Kimberly Gilbert, said during the post-show discussion about Marie “not feeling like a human being.” No one around her saw her as a person, rather as a creature who existed for their observation and amusement. During an intimate moment early in the play, Axel tells her will remember her as a butterfly, a small delicate, fragile creature instead of the human being as she is. While trying to pursue her he remarks how he will pin down her wings, a comment he meant in a joking and playful manner but, it speaks larger volumes to how Marie was viewed as an object her entire that that could traded around and treated like a possession to create alliances.

    This even connects to how we view Marie Antoinette today as a modern audience. As Kimberly Gilbert also said, even now we think of Marie as an icon and have almost a “morbid obsession” with her. Her memory and infamy live on because we have continuously viewed Marie Antoinette as a creature instead of person.

    • Molly, I think that your post is incredibly interesting. I did not really think about it before, but I agree with you completely in regards to the symbolism of Marie being a creature, rather than an actual human being. Nowadays, as you mentioned, we like to watch movies, read books and attend plays about Marie because her story is entertaining, in some morbid kind of way. Her life was a circus, from beginning to end, and we are fascinated by it. Though the production at Woolly Mammoth definitely conveyed this circus-like, entertaining story, I believe it also did a good job at exploring and understanding the human side of Marie (which is what Marie – at least the Marie of the play – truly desired). After all, the production at least brought up this issue that we’re discussing, of Marie constantly being viewed as a creature rather than a human being. By coming to understand this, I can keep it in mind whenever I see or read something else related to Marie Antoinette (or some other “creature-like” figure of history). It’s important to understand the human sides of these people, rather than become distracted by the circuses of their lives.

    • Molly, I had not considered the wing references until I read your post and I have to say, that is fantastic. Recognizing the multiple elements that led to the idea that Marie was a “creature” instead of a person really clarified parts of the play for me.

      The imagery of Marie as a butterfly queen was beautiful, especially as she surrounded herself with beautiful things. Most butterflies flutter from one beautiful flower to another, and the beginning scenes of Marie moving from the hot tub to a changing room to a party to her idyllic farm felt like that. In the end, her executioner took the form of Axel and he really did “pin down her wings”.

      Thanks for spotting that in the play, I would not have noticed it otherwise.

  4. Seeing “Marie Antoinette” at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre was one of the most unique theatre experiences I have ever had. It was colorful, dark, in-your-face, exciting and, at times, disturbing. And I found our post-show discussion with the cast and rest of the audience to be one of the more interesting that this class has had.

    One discussion that we had that I found particularly interesting was how Marie Antoinette lives in all of us, in some way and to some degree. As one audience member expressed, whenever someone is walking down the street and comes across a homeless person – someone who truly has nothing and is living on the fringes of society – and walks by, they are showing a bit of Marie Antoinette in their actions. I thought that this statement was quite thought provoking, especially when considering the type of violent and merciless backlash that Marie and her husband, the king, received for their mistreatment and disregard of the common people. Every day, on my way to wherever it is that I am going, I will come across at least one person on the streets who is begging for money or food. But how often do I fail to act when I see them? Or, worse, how often do I try not to pay attention at all and keep moving on?

    I do not think that the play made me sympathize for Marie. Rather, it served as a reminder of the horrible consequences that can come about when over-consumption, extravagance and disregard for those on the fringes of society become the norm. As mentioned in the post-show discussion, how does the rest of the world – particularly countries in the Middle East – view Americans? How much of Marie do we, as Americans, show to the rest of the world? And what kind of backlash are we going to receive in return? The questions are enormous and uncomfortable, but for that reason are all the more important to seriously consider.

    Lastly, I wanted to mention how well I thought the set played into the story of Marie and helped tie me, as an audience member, to that story. Everything I saw on stage felt very up-close and personal. The bright lights of the paparazzi, the hot tub that served as a symbol of leisure and extravagance, as well as imprisonment, and the graffiti on the walls created something that was gritty, over-the-top and brought me into the life and downfall of Marie. And ultimately, it created an incredibly memorable theatre experience.

    • Hi Dominic,
      I enjoyed reading your comment because I had forgotten about that person’s response during discussion – that we all having some Marie Antoinette in us when we walk passed people who have nothing. I also thought it was interesting that, despite being able to relate somewhat with Marie’s neglect of homeless, starving people, you didn’t feel sympathetic for her. I agree with your view that this play offers us a reminder about what can happen to those who over-indulge at the expense of the rest of society, specifically looking at how the rest of the world views the United States. Still, I can’t help but sympathize even just a little with Marie because I don’t really think she had much of a say in what happened to her during her life – she was married off at age 14, required to take on the role of Queen of France, and it appears that (at least in the play) she longed to go back to her home country of Austria.

    • I also found the idea that we are all versions of Marie Antoinette very interesting. In many ways, her struggle to understand those in different situations and of different wealth and means is very relatable. I find that I often misunderstand or misperceive the lives of those of different circumstances. Many of us, like Marie, forget and ignore the misfortunes of those less fortunate than ourselves. I think that this is one of the main reasons why I felt so sympathetic for Marie Antoinette in this play. While her ideas about the lives of the French masses are obviously misguided, her confusion is understandable. At the end of the play, I thought of her far less of a villain as I had going into the play.

  5. I really enjoyed this play because, although it focuses on the story of Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution, the content of this performance was not simply taken out of a history book. This play featured girlfriends in bikinis hanging out by the pool, frequent photo snapshots of Marie, and even a talking sheep.
    As the play progressed, I noticed a lot of symbolism in some of the items onstage. For example, when Marie first encounters the character of the sheep it is inside her home and the audience is both amused and confused by what this seemingly random animal is doing onstage. We see this sheep several other times during the play, first as it warns Marie about the developing negative attitudes of the French people towards her, and later as it appears to her in prison as a sheep skull and teaches her about famous philosophers such as Isaac Newton. Towards the very end of the play, the woman who played the sheep transforms into a wolf. I think that this slow transformation from sheep, to dead sheep, to wolf represents both the attitudes of the French people towards the monarchy as well as Marie’s subconscious (as one member of the audience suggested during the discussion). The sheep’s early warning to Marie begins the following rumors about her being promiscuous and causing France’s financial crisis through her lavish spending. The dead sheep symbolizes the people in France who have died or become extremely poor due to the financial crisis. The wolf, as it is classically seen in stories as the sheep’s evil enemy, represents the final attitude of the French citizens – a bloodthirsty monster who seeks revenge on the monarchy.
    This extreme transformation of the French citizens is also noted by the actress who played Marie, Kimberly Gilbert, during our discussion. She talked about how the financial crisis in France was one major factor that led to the people’s call for democracy and termination of monarchy. In order to accomplish this goal, Gilbert argues that the people developed a “mob mentality” that drove them to act brutally and mercilessly. She said that maybe this opposition and inhumane bloodshed is required by the people in order to later establish a democracy and restore balance. I agree with Gilbert in that the people of France acted extremely towards the monarchists (i.e. execution by guillotine) to assure that a democracy could be achieved and to symbolize through their actions that the monarchy was dead. I also think that this incredibly cruel treatment towards Marie and her family helps us to sympathize more with Marie, and this is probably due to the fact that the play is shown through Marie’s lens as opposed to that of the French people.
    Another symbolic theme I noticed throughout the play was that Marie’s clothes get progressively worse. In the first scene her dress and bikini were both very fashionable, modern styles, but every time she changed her clothes after that she put on a more raggedy-looking dress. By the final scene she was literally just wearing a rag dress. Someone in the audience also mentioned that her heels became progressively shorter as well, and that this may symbolize Marie’s declining power throughout this period of time. I thought this was an interesting assertion because I hadn’t really noticed the height of her heels before, but I think it’s true that both the heels and dresses together symbolize Marie’s power and luxury and how they steadily decline through this play. I think that Marie’s losses are also symbolized in the deconstruction of the entire stage – the parts of the stage are slowly removed, and all that is left by the end is the giant mirror/guillotine and the jail cell.
    I think this play was successful in communicating these major historical themes through symbolism in the characters, their possessions, and even the stage composition. I really liked the balance between history and the modern world – first, because the symbolism tied these two worlds together, and second, because it allowed the audience to relate more with the characters, mainly Marie.

    • Hi Genevieve, I thought your post brought out a ton of good points about the play on Thursday. I particularly liked how you dissected the different symbolism used throughout the play, such as the lamb as being representative of the people’s sentiments and transformation, and Marie’s clothing as being representative of her changing circumstances or emotions throughout the play. One thing that occurred to me as I watched the play was the extent of Marie’s personal culpability. It seems pretty clear the French people held her accountable, but I wonder how much of it was actually her indifference and not just some of the typical drawbacks associated with the monarchy.

  6. Marie Antoinette has always been a fascinating person to me. Whenever I have encountered a variation on her life in the arts, most notably the 2006 Sofia Coppola film, I found myself left feel in pretty poorly for Marie and the hand she had been dealt in life.

    This performance, however, left me feeling the complete opposite. Wooly Mammoth’s Marie was shrill and condescending, completely unaware of how obnoxious she actually was. Throughout the performance, I found myself wishing for the end, not because the show was bad, but because I was just so sick of Marie.

    Which depiction of Marie is more accurate? The ill-fated queen as a young girl making the most of bad circumstances, but retaining an amiable personality, or as the woman-child we saw on Thursday night, unable to comprehend even the most basic human emotions. History can only tell us so much, and we’re left wondering through performances such as these, whether our perception of the past has been filtered through the wrong lens all along.

    In our post-show discussion, a few people voiced their feelings of pity towards this Marie. That they could almost excuse the way she is because her circumstances were so extraordinary. I wonder if they could illuminate that a little more for me. At what point would you feel that her actions had transcended the excuse of a bad childhood?

    I think the aspect of the show that struck me the most was the symbolism of the guillotine / mirror. Less so that it was there all along, but that a mirror, which Marie had continually railed against in her tirades, ended up being the very thing the killed her. For all her anger towards being watched and inspected constantly, there was a part of Marie that revealed in the attention. What would she have done without all eyes on her, all the time? In the end she’s left with only herself, and her own eyes, to reflect back on her life and the choices she made that brought her to the end.

    • Hi Mairead,

      I also was intrigued by the guillotine/mirror; it seemed like I was one of the few in the audience who did not know that the fateful end of Marie was really onstage with her all along as a prop. I completely agree with your symbolism of it. A mirror is usually seen as an object of vanity, so it made sense it would be onstage interacting with Marie throughout the entirety of the play. But then, by the end, it transforms into a device to end Marie’s life. I also would argue that it retains the “mirror” identity, not so much as a vane object, but one of self-reflection, similar to what you mention in your post. The only other prop that stays throughout the play is the bathtub/Jacuzzi which also undergoes a similar transition. The very thing that symbolizes Marie’s relaxing lifestyle becomes a cage by the end of the play, imprisoning and torturing her.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and insights!

    • Mairead,

      I sympathize with your view that this portrayal of Marie Antoinette was unsympathetic. Yes, Marie Antoinette was married off to a foreign prince at a young age and had to leave everything she knew– but this was extremely normal in royal marriages at the time. No one else used it as their excuse to spend their countries into bankruptcy.

      I also appreciate your analysis of the mirror/guillotine symbolism. In the beginning Marie revels in the influence she has over people, specifically in fashion, but that same attention she attracted turns against her in the end, and the same power she exerted is turned back on her.

  7. Marie Antoinette at the Woolly Mammoth Theater was an intense experience both visually and psychologically. Going into the theater and finding our seats so close to the stage, the extravagance of the set and the gaudiness prepared me for a wonderful representation of the most extravagant queen of France. I usually love history plays that present the subject in realistic ways, but this play is the exception to that preference. The modern opulence was delightful, presenting equal parts fun and disgusting. While this did seem to give a nod to the 1% of today, I never thought that was the purpose of this piece. Instead, I saw the initial extravagance as Marie’s cage; gilded and comfortable, but a cage nonetheless. Her acceptance of that lifestyle was the only way she could express autonomy, and as it was stripped away piece by piece, she was left in a state of mental anguish. Her move to her pretend village was another way she tried to take control of her life, but ultimately was just a fancy game of pretend.

    After her greed and contempt for the poor, seeing “democracy” overthrow the monarchy and execute the incarnation of inequality would be satisfying. However, I pitied Marie. This play made her out to be a the product of her life of rules and obligations. When the play turned into a psychological thriller with face paint and wolves in sheep’s clothing, it was obvious that Marie’s mental state was under-developed and on a full break down. Calling her the Butterfly Queen was appropriate. Like a butterfly, she was beautiful and surrounded herself with pretty things, but did no real harm. The King was the one who taxed the poor to starvation while letting the landed gentry pay nothing. The King was the one who called in the troops to silence the people. The King was the one who would not go out on the balcony, who couldn’t handle responsibility, and who made all the wrong choices. Yet Marie Antoinette is the one that history remembers.

    The post production discussion with the cast was one of the best we have had so far. I think having a moderator to center the discussion was very helpful and it was obvious that the cast had put a significant amount of thought into their characters. Overall, it was a wonderful production that will stay with me for a while.

    • Elizabeth,

      I noticed Marie’s hairpiece as a “cage” as well, and it definitely speaks to the talent of the costume designer. I mean we see her move down the social latter not only through the events of the play, but also through her wardrobe changes. Her hair decreased in height until she was completely stripped of it. Her heels were lowered from a “standing above, looking down on everyone” view, to one in which she is literally “grounded.” And needless to say her outfits went from bright, over-the-top pieces to muted, sad rags. I think all of these things helped to give us the sense of pity for her that you talked about. Although she started the play “caged” in one way, she eventually ended up “caged” in another.

  8. The production of “Marie Antoinette” by David Adjmi, directed by Yury Urnov at Wooll Mammoth, was a spectacular experience. The play had humor, wit, and drama as they presented Marie Antoinette as a complex character.

    The light designer, Jen Shreiver, and the set designer, Misha Kachman, transported the audience to Antoinette’s world, Antoinette’s mindset. The light was soft and lighthearted (greens, pinks, and purples) towards the beginning of the play – just like the set. As the play progressed, the light and set began to harshen. Light became less colorful and employed in a more dramatic fashion, giving gravitas to certain scenes, such as the scene where Antoinette delivers a monologue in the bathtub. The scenery was slowly deconstructed and became more spread out, a brilliant way to reflect Antoinette’s life: she was closed off, out-of-touch consumed by her aristocratic lifestyle early on in life, then as financial woes plague France and the Third Estate decide to rise and revolt, her life becomes less glamorous as she expanded her horizons and became more sensitive to the suffering the French hoi polloi was enduring.

    In terms of whether or not this play resembles the “1% versus the 99%” dynamic often referenced today, I believe it does and does not. Generally speaking, both at their core represent a story about the oppressed versus oppressors, or in less polemic terms, the haves and the have-nots. However, a crucial difference is the religious connection that existed for French monarchs: they believed God endowed them with a divine right to rule. However, the 1%, such as the Koch brothers, made their billions through slimy business deals, legal loopholes, unethical environmental practices and connections their social backgrounds enabled for them. For the 1%, some type of work was involved to gather that wealth, so in a way one could justify their wealth more so than the monarchs.

    • Juan, I was also struck by the gradual reveal of the entire stage and set to the audience throughout the play. We start off with a very small, closed off central rectangle of action that is gradually striped away, similar to Marie’s life and the slow removal of her material possessions. As more of the set was taken away, we become slowly acclimated to the size of the actors relative to the size of the stage space as a whole, where Marie gradually shrinks and becomes a smaller presence compared to her surrounding. As the stage became increasingly empty, Marie is increasingly forced to confront her behavior and internal demons as she is no longer distracted by the glamour of her previous comforts as a distraction.

      The stage and set, then, seem to directly relate to the more figurative stripping of Marie emotionally and mentally as she is slowly unwoven to the point of her death, where she is on the brink of insanity in the midst of an empty, black hole of a setting.

    • Juan, I appreciate your comments about the distinction between the 1% and the French elite because of the divine right endowed to the monarchs. However, I think that American dream narrative is often used to sort of supplant that idea of divine right onto the 1%. If someone “pulled themselves up by their bootstraps” and “came from nothing” than its easy for them to claim the same sort of right to wealth, power and influence claimed by the French monarchs. I certainly agree with you that that narrative is often not truthful, but I think the wealthy in America sometimes feel like they were also endowed the divine right to rule.

  9. Marie Antoinette showcased how self-reflective a more abstract work can play out on stage. From the beginning, Marie Antoinette acknowledges its own construction through its use of the strobe light and snapshot lights and sound effects to imitate a paparazzi. The introduction of each new character in runway fashion also hinted playfully with their appearance on stage, as if their entrance into the action deemed individual recognition. The actors consistently interact with crewmembers on stage, even to the point where Marie acknowledges a male crewmember as a female peasant she had recently hired. The reveal of the mirror to be the guillotine also pointed to the constant presence of her imminent death, an element of the play and history that we all anticipated. The shattering of the illusion of a play as reality, especially in Marie Antoinette, comes full circle when Axel Fersen grabs Marie during her daydream in prison and shouts, “It’s an illusion!” indicating not only Marie’s delusion, but also the play itself.

    This further plays out with the appearance of the sheep, who is arguably the strongest presence of self-reflection throughout the play. In the last scenes, when the sheep again appears to Marie while she sits in prison, we learn the role of the sheep is a representation of the “sheep in wolf’s clothing” of the extravagant lifestyle that ultimately leads to Marie’s downfall and death. The main actress’ commentary on the play’s self-reflectiveness also struck me when she compared it to Marie’s life as a whole; Marie lives in a way that required complete immersion, to be “in it” all the time. We finally see that break when she herself begins to breakdown in the final scenes when she removed from her comforting and familiar environment, similar to how the play constantly reminds us it is a work and not reality.

    The self-reflectiveness of Marie Antoinette also spoke to many of the comments analyzing what this play says about today’s society. Without these reflective elements, I think the connection would be less convincing because it would lose its easy application to modern events.

  10. Thursday’s showing of Marie Antoinette was the most modern and unconventional show I have ever been to. Watching it felt similar to reading a particularly complex book. I was constantly on the look out for motifs, symbolism and all the other terms I learned in AP Literature. It took a lot of effort to watch because I felt so included in the production, in part due to the fact that my seat in the dead center of the second row put me about four feet away from the action.

    With regard to the question of the sympathy to the 1%, as an audience member though, I didn’t sympathize with Marie at all. In the first act, her self reliance in comparison to her husband made her seem powerful. But as her world crumbled and she became less and less in control, her immaturity became more and more prominent, and I became more and more frustrated with her, until she completely lost any semblance of control in the escape scene.

    The scene in which Marie exposes her family to the butchers was the last straw for my relationship with Marie. I wasn’t sad that she was captured and would likely be killed; I was just annoyed with her. Her infatuation with peasantry reminded me of similar appropriation in our culture today such as Urban Outfitters selling clothes with Native American patterns to wealthy Americans who are infatuated with the “cuteness” of the culture. Watching Marie pick and choose the parts of peasant life that she would live frustrated me and reminded me of people I’ve run into in my own life and for that reason, I couldn’t sympathize with her.

    • Rosii,
      I agree with your comments about the scene in which Marie exposes her family to the butchers. I was annoyed that her almost obsession with the life of peasants took priority over getting her son to safety and was what led to their capture. I thought your comparison of Marie’s infatuation to Urban Outfitters appropriation of Native American patterns was really interesting and incredibly accurate. It reminds me of the scene where the revolutionary guard is painting her face and he tells her that she can’t just put on her “peasant costume” and expect the people of France to like her. Marie really believed she was doing a good thing and was trying to appeal to the people but she was actually putting on a costume and saw the whole thing as “cute” and “quaint” while many men, women, and children were dying from the lifestyle Marie Antoinette was so fascinated with.

  11. In the post-show discussion, the topic of the 1% versus the 99% was brought up and if sympathy for the 1% was created. Throughout the play, I did find myself feeling sorry for Marie in the situation she was faced with, which alters my view of history. Although, Marie did not really have an understanding of what was going around in the government around her, I do not believe it was her fault, and I thought the play did a good job of showing how destructive a glamorous lifestyle can be. Marie had no perspective on the world and did not know what it was like to need something or to have to work for it, since her parents had always provided for her. Because of this, she was unable to survive when she had to stop spending money, did not know what to do when her personal items were taken away from her, and was unable to relate to commoners in her country that revolted. I also felt bad for Marie because her family was being taken away from her and she did not know where they were going, and spending so much time in isolation eventually made her go crazy.

    So far, Marie Antoinette has been my favorite theater experience. I loved how the actors utilized the stage, and that the set and stage were constantly expanding. I thought the costume designer did an amazing job incorporating symbolism into the costumes. My favorite was that Marie’s heel height was slowly decreasing throughout the play and that people were taking the height away from her by changing her shoes, which I saw as a reflection of the power she held over France, but was slowly losing. I was also very impressed with the set designer and how certain elements, such as the guillotine, initially the vanity, was always a part of the set.

    • Meaghan, I love that you brought up your observation of her heels. I felt Marie’s transition in so many ways, and the heels were definitely also shortening, but I did not think to make that connection.
      I got to think about it In terms of the journey Marie was on as her life became more simple, and as she approached her death, but I also took the observation to a personal level. Somehow we can all relate to the symbolism in the shortening heels. Very often, we give into certain standards of beauty or happiness, and we begin to lean on material things as a crutch. What, then happens when all of those things are gone? We are left imprisoned by the thoughts of the vain and shallow lengths that we have gone to fit in somehow or keep up with satisfying those desires.

  12. Marie Antoinette at The Wooly Mammoth Theater was truly an amazing experience. The sets, costume design, and acting all blew me away. One part of the set that I thought was interesting was the tub in the center. In the beginning of the play, the tub is set up like a Jacuzzi, with Marie and her friends sitting around, gossiping, and snacking with carefree attitudes. By the end of the play, Marie is sitting in the tub alone, stripped of all of her luxuries and her family. It becomes like her prison cell, maybe showing that it was her original carefree attitude that led to her downfall.

    Another part of the show that I really enjoyed was the costume design. I absolutely loved the poufy hairpieces with the metal wiring wrapped around; I thought it was a really cool modern take on the old hairstyle. I also loved the glamorous and colorful dresses worn by the cast in the beginning of the play. The wardrobe changing from extravagant to extremely simple and raggedy by the end really helped to tell the story.

    Throughout the show, I couldn’t help but feel a little bad for Marie. It seems like it’s not really her fault that she doesn’t even know what’s going on around her. She tries to make changes, but she is bred in such a way that she can’t even understand what the people of France are going through. She was made to be a queen; extravagance is all she has ever known. It seemed like having kids did ground her a little bit, she “cuts her spending in half” but she is still selfish and oblivious at the core. Her ignorance leads to her capture when she stops to ask the people what windmills do. This was probably my favorite play we have seen so far.

    • It’s interesting the way you put it that “her ignorance leads to her capture.” I would say her desire to actually understand her people and her curiosity at how that part of the world functions got her captured. Just as she was showing real potential at maybe becoming a better human being with a clearer understanding of the lives of her citizens, she was captured and killed. It was unfortunate. Perhaps if she had had the opportunity to learn more she would have made for a better queen.

    • I was also intrigued about the use of the tub during the show. My friend and I joked that it was almost like an added character to the show, it’s presence was so prominent. I’ll admit that I was confused at first because I thought the tub was a normal part of Wooly Mammoth’s space, but in the post show discussion we were told that the stage was lengthened specifically for this show.

      The tub was obviously an important aspect of the show and I’m still working it out for myself, but Iike you’re obswrvation that the rubs use went from carefree to cell-like. This synbian fits in with the mirrors double use as the guillotine blade.

  13. As a history buff who’s favorite period in modern history is the French Revolution, I was curious as to how such a well-known figure would be portrayed. The promotional material for the show indicated a modern take on the life of Marie Antoinette, but I was still ill-prepared for what followed. Almost immediately I was struck at how privileged and entitled Marie Antoinette seemed. The performance felt like we were following her around as if we were a rogue paparazzi crew gaining an intimate and unwanted look into the life of royalty.

    Studying Marie Antoinette breeds an image of a complex public figure at a time when the Second Estate, or the Royalty, was deeply loathed by the 98% of the French population that dominated the Third Estate. As such, one almost feels sorry for Marie Antoinette, as her rise and fall was almost guaranteed by the sheer status of her birth and the political tumult of the time.

    This performance took those sentiments by the neck and shook them back and forth until you were almost disgusted with Marie Antoinette. For a generation obsessed with political protest movements, and with the memories of the Occupy movement fresh on our minds, this portrayal of Marie Antoinette sought to place the French monarch in the same company as greedy oil executives, corrupt Ponzi-schemers, and, yes, even free-spending royalty. Marie Antoinette’s ultimate demise may have come from the violent political climate and the advances made by the majority of the French bourgeois, but one cannot help but feel as though she brought it upon herself after watching this performance.

    I walked away from Woolly Mammoth questioning everything I knew about the French Revolution, and I commend the company and actors for creating such an inquisitive and timely piece.

  14. This play presented a very different perspective of Marie Antoinette’s story for me. The story of her plight in the French Revolution in this version felt far more sympathetic and understanding of her than any I had previously heard. The use of props and setting in this play created a far different view of Marie Antoinette’s world and helped to elicit my sympathy for Marie in her troubling demise.

    As the curtains and furniture in the first scene are stripped away from the stage and as Marie’s clothing and hair pieces are taken from her, I felt far more connected to her. While the first scene presented an incomprehensibly extravagant lifestyle that left me feeling like an onlooker into Marie’s life, once the cartoonish props were taken from the stage I began to feel more engaged in the story. This culminated for me at the end of the play when Marie discusses that she was only fourteen when she entered royal life in Paris. As she sits in the center of the stage wearing nothing but a plain smock and with nothing left to cloud our perception of her authentic self, Marie begins to show her true colors.

    The use of the stage, costumes, and spacing in this play to modernize Marie Antoinette’s story poses an interesting debate about the similarities and differences between the wealthy class of Marie’s time period and that of current America. I saw many similarities between Marie Antoinette’s story as presented in this play and that of the 1% in America. One of the main similarities I noticed was the important existence of paparazzi. Each character is introduced into the play with camera sounds and flashing lights. In the play, Marie constantly struggles with how to please the onlookers and stop the hateful news about her spending and lifestyle. Another similarity I found was the confusion Marie felt about her lifestyle and the differences between her and the masses. One of my favorite scenes in the play is when Marie unconvincingly dresses her family as farmers. Her attempt displays how unconnected and mistaken she is about the lifestyle of those less wealthy than her. In many ways, the wealthy class of America seems to also misperceive the lifestyles of the “99%”. A common complaint of current policy is that wealthy policy makers are mistaken about the needs of their constituents. This is an issue that was brought up frequently by Marie in the play. I found this version of Marie’s story interesting because of the similarities it had with current wealth inequality issues today. For this reason, it was very surprising to me how I felt far more sympathetic for Marie than the revolutionaries at the end of the play. The play was thought provoking for me in that it made me think about some of the confusion and issues that stem from the relationship between the 1% and 99% today.

  15. What I loved most about the Woolly Mammoth’s production of Marie Antoinette is the feeling of audience inclusion. Audiences can relate to some aspect of the issues raised by this play: money, politics, leisure, innocence, drama, suspense, power, outrage, poverty, family and death. There were several times when I had to tell myself that I am actually at a play because I continually found myself lost in the character’s interactions standing within arm’s reach of me. I even caught myself a few times before I vocalized a response to something being addressed to “them” or “they”. The closeness of their voices, the fluidity of movements shuffling about and the occasional “mist” descending from their parted lips and resting on my face made me feel like another friend silently taking in the conversations.

    Although, I was not as engaged in the stage presence from the visual perspective; everything I heard captivated my attention. Without being told, I knew the opening scene was glitzy because the clicking of paparazzi cameras provided a clue. Marie’s giggling friends discussing the lavish life of a queen and her associates made me envision photographs I have seen of the English monarchy and palace. The sullen tone and evasive mannerisms of King Louie painted a picture of someone utterly confused, and the sound of broken clocks contributed to my mental portrait of his character.

    The sudden transition from glamorous to doom and gloom audio effects alerted me to the tragedy about to transpire. The rich undertones of the villain’s bass voice, and the way he maneuvered his words made his character credible. I found myself wanting to rise up out of my chair and help Marie if he hurt her, but how easily I forgot “the villain” represented disgruntled citizens: “them”, “They”, those of us in America who are dissatisfied with politics as usual.

    I suppose to the one percent here in America the ninety-nine percent appear like “villains” always wanting more from their fat purses. I say, how easily we forget that many of the one percent earned their wealth off the tired backs of slaves, immigrants and laborers but that’s another story altogether. There is no kingdom, no country or individual that reached any measure of wealth who did so without another individual and\or the collaborative efforts of the community aiding in their discoveries without proper recognition.

    I pose the question, did King Louie and Marie destroy their kingdom, or did the villains? Did King Louie and Marie steal from their citizens, or was the reaction of the villains a mirrored reflection of what had already happened by the French monarchy? I don’t readily know the answer, but the post show discussions really got my mind stirring.

    The audience member who addressed the issue of America being the one percent from the perspective of the rest of the world was interesting to ponder. We are a democratic society, and still many Americans don’t engage in politics as consistently as we should. We have the right to be educated, while there are individuals in other countries desiring to be educated and are refused. We have freedoms and liberties that are taken for granted, while innocent children underneath the rule of dictators are used as soldiers for “dirty” work and some are trafficked. And for what: power, prestige and money? I maintain that money is not everything, especially when it is used to usurp the basic civil rights of human life.

    I empathize with Marie Antoinette’s character because she was thrust into a life she wasn’t exactly ready for, and didn’t necessarily want at that time. How can any parent expect a child of fourteen to be rational enough in making life decisions, let alone decisions for a kingdom? I understand how easy the glamour sucked her into its power, but felt sad as her rude awakening unfolds. The main character is brave and audacious, especially during her execution. Kim, you did an amazing job portraying Marie Antoinette. Five stars to the cast of this thrilling production.

    Thanks to everyone who commented during the post show because the metaphors addressed brought this play to light for me. Anne, I appreciate your observation of Marie’s shoes, as they went from high heels to stubs depicting the disintegration of her young life. I would not have come to that particular conclusion on my own, but I certainly felt it happening in my bones. TJ, thank you for your meticulously described usage of stage space as it is being transformed before the audience. I appreciate your metaphor of the bath pool as it related to Marie’s comfort in the beginning, and then her sudden suffocation and eventual death. I hadn’t picked up on the latter part because I was unaware that the pool was still being used in this scene, but it makes me wonder now if the pool was the “basement” she makes reference to when speaking to the sheep\wolf character. Can someone shed insight on the sheep\wolf character because there is still a missing link inside my mind? Thanks.

  16. Personally, when I watched Marie Antoinette at the Woolly Mammoth Theater it took me a while to get interested in the play. I didn’t remember most of the events that occurred during the French Revolution so it made the play a little confusing for me to understand. Also, the eccentricity and unconventional nature of the play really threw me off. I was expecting a traditional play about the French Revolution and the outlandish outfits and makeup were an unexpected twist to the play. However, the modernization of the play really helped me to understand Marie Antoinette’s emotions and her side of the story since the French Revolution is mainly told from the peasant side.

    While watching the play, I got the sense that Marie Antoinette was initially a self-centered person who really didn’t care about her husband or anyone else other than herself. She paraded around acting like a child (when she was quite clearly a grown woman) and behaved like a spoiled teenager that didn’t know any better. However, I developed more sympathy for Marie as the play went on and more of her freedoms were stripped away from her. For example, there was one moment in the play that really struck me which was when Marie was in the tub and the guard painted her face while she was crying and begging for mercy. For me, this depiction of Marie really made me feel bad for her especially since this was after she was torn from her family and told that her husband was killed. Moments like these really made me empathize with Marie’s situation and question if the peasants were right in rioting.
    I really didn’t like this aspect of the play because it represented the 1% of the French population at the time. The only real time the audience hears or knows the opinion of the 99% is through the sheep, and I didn’t feel that the sheep emphasized the seriousness of the situation at hand. The French Revolution was characterized by a huge wage gap, unfair political practices and rampant starvation and I felt that this play mitigated this issue. I’m very glad that this play showed Marie Antoinette’s side of the story because I learned some things about her that I didn’t know before but I wish that they showed more of the plight of the poor so that the audience can get a better sense of the situation.

  17. In essence, this performance was a psychological thriller. There were so many details that made me think about freedom and equality and privilege that weren’t even in the script. Take, for instance, the clock metaphor. Louis XVI had an obsession with clocks to say the least. He was always tinkering with them, trying to fix them. Maybe they couldn’t be fixed. As Louis’s and Marie’s lives change, the clock noises grow louder and louder, connoting chaos and unstableness. When they are told that a new city government has been created, the clock noises return because time is literally ticking away for their lives as they once knew them.

    As characters were introduced and as scenes changed, often the actors would walk around the catwalk clockwise, posing for photo flashes. Again and again, they went around in this loop, not making progress, broken. Then, as Marie is tied up by the Revolutionary, he whips her around the catwalk counterclockwise, backwards. I wonder if this blocking was intentional, if the director meant to suggest that the endless merry-go-round of Marie’s world was finally coming to an end and a new time was beginning. Her wealth, her status, her power was being literally reversed and given back to the people.

    Perhaps the people, now, will control France’s future, it’s time.
    After the play, we briefly discussed the place of America in the world. Although within our own country we have a divide between the 1% and the 99%, we must keep in mind that this gap is even larger in other parts of the world. Although there is a wealth gap, all Americans still have the right to vote and influence the direction of their nation. Many citizens of other countries aren’t as lucky. We must also keep in mind that we are, indeed, the 1% in the world. We are so blessed, and we should never forget that.

    • Kim this was a fascinating read! I never noticed the time symbolism. Constantly walking in a clockwise fashion until the end when she was dragged around counterclockwise. The clocks ticking away and growing louder and louder. This makes me think about the meaning of time with materialistic ideas and as time passes we end up grower more and more “down to earth” because we have been through certain experiences. Just as Marie coming closer to the ground with regards to her shoes, we see her life lessons and experiences increasing as she goes through things that she has never had to before. A possible representation of the counterclockwise rotation at the end could represent people who are near death who wish they could turn back time and change how they lived. We hear her saying I should have invited X and Y, but she didn’t. She lived with regret and in a sense dead to the world. Which may be the sheep’s purpose in the play.

  18. I just wanted to start this blog off by giving kudos to the whole production team of this play. The imagery, the symbolism and metaphors, the actors, the whole thing was just amazing! This has been the best theater experience for me thus far. I thoroughly enjoyed the play, and I didn’t want to see it end.

    I thought it was intriguing that the question of whether or not the play was sympathetic to the 1% came up. It was interesting to me because it was as if being sympathetic to the 1% in this case, or in any case, was a bad thing. Nevertheless, I certainly didn’t come out feeling like “wow, I didn’t realize that these incredibly rich people have to deal with all this!” However, I did come out feeling sympathetic for Marie Antoinette as a human being who was hated and who lost her head because of that animosity. I felt sympathy for Marie, not for “the one percent.” It’s not a bad thing to feel sympathetic for a human being who is entirely above you in social standing. I think when we recognize the same humanity in everyone, we can’t help but feel for one another when our humanity is being violated.

    Sitting so close to the stage made me feel Marie’s fears, her hopes fading away, and her frustrations with her incompetent husband (seriously, he was spineless). The actress really convinced me of the feelings of isolation Marie must of have felt the whole time she was in the prison. She made me realize that Marie’s death was not just a spectacle that gave birth to the interest we have in her today, but rather for Marie (and for her family) it was all very terrifying and so very personal.

    I think if we are still so worried about the play being too sympathetic to the 1% then we haven’t really made much progress since Marie’s time when Marie’s death, and many other decapitations, were simply a spectacle to behold.

  19. Wow! What an amusing and thought- provoking play!

    First off, I thought it had a lot to do with breaking barriers and confinement for both the audience and the characters. I felt like I had no option of being a part of the play- I just was. At times I felt compelled to “be” Marie Antoinette, and other times I was compelled to “be” and feel the pain of the people who were taking some extreme measures to change the way their country was being run. The characters’ engagement of the crowd was quite instrumental to achieving this for me.

    Another boundary that I saw broken was the boundary of homogeneity in the cast. Unlike what I have typically seen, this cast was quite diverse. I remember realizing that Marie’s brother being black was something I needed to question and understand. Upon some thought, I saw it as a part of the play’s efforts to break barriers in an interesting way.

    Watching the set expand was also quite interesting, and it, too, marked the breaking of boundaries. We started off with a small, run-way like stage with little width and depth, and ended up with a large space. In a way it was quite symbolic of the ironic journey that Marie was on in her life: she had so much concentrated in a small space in her life, but as things began to change, she found herself experiencing the breadth of life even more, and she ended up in a prison- a spacious one where she had nothing.

    Lastly, the contemporary twist to the story as the play had it, speaks to how much people want to continue to tell & hear this story even though we all know how it ends. It also speaks to the fact that it is not only a story of historic times, but a story that is very reflective of self and society of today.

    • I didn’t think about the play as one that broke barriers, but after reading your critique, I think that is a good way to describe the experience. To add on more to your examples, I liked how lights were used to simulate pictures being taken by paparazzi. Since the lights came from around the theater, I felt as though I was an actual spectator or paparazzi. This brought the audience even further into the experience. Additionally, whenever Marie was in the tub in the middle of the stage, she was eye level with the immediate audience. This gave the sense that she was having a direct conversation with the audience.

  20. I loved every minute of this play. I loved how vibrant it was and how beautifully it was pieced together. The story became much more tangible and alive. I was able to relate to Marie Antoinette instead of seeing her as a historical figure.

    I was very intrigued by the 1% versus the 99% dialogue after the show. As much as I had empathy for Marie I never saw myself as Marie – I saw myself as one of the 99%. But when the notion of ‘oh, as Americans living in complete political stability with access to water and education, we are the 1%’ that struck me because I saw myself completely different from Marie. I started to wonder then what Marie should have done differently in her position and what I would have done if I were in her position knowing that I am the 1%. I think that’s the reason why we as the audience was able to sympathize to a degree and had a better understanding. It was an interesting reflection.

    Speaking about this play, I was thrilled and I was shaken by so many stimuli and effects around the stage – the runway, the flash, the fan, the sound, the colors. It was so similar to going to the movies but different at the same time. It was much more alive especially with all the side effects. It was much more tangible and I felt I was having the “true theatre experience.” I genuinely enjoyed it.

    I also noticed that the theater had a younger audience than the other theaters we’ve been to. I think that also changes the interaction between the play and the audience and shapes the “theatre experience.” So it was interesting to see what kind of an audience a theater attracts.

    • Dear Andrea,

      I also noticed upon walking into the Woolly Mammoth Theater that many of the attendees were younger which was very surprising for me. I knew that this probably wasn’t going to be an ordinary play and I guessed that the play was suited for a younger audience and I wondered how the play would be styled. I definitely want to thank Ari for getting the class such amazing seats because I feel that this enhanced our viewing experience quite a bit. We definitely got most of the effect of the eccentricity and flashiness of the stage and props. This closeness made the class feel like a part of the play and as a result made us empathize with Marie Antoinette even more.

  21. This play was mesmerizing! Not only did the actors make me believe every second that they were portraying their character, but the costumes, and the stage portrayed deeper levels of meaning and subliminal messaging without diverging attention from the actors. I am not sure if this is because of the fact that I was right in front of the stage and as spotlights hit the characters, they also hit me, or if it was because the caliber of these actor’s skills that made it as mesmerizing as it was, but I could not turn an eye or get any closer to the edge of my seat without falling off of it.

    The costumes constantly becoming closer and closer to earth, the stage becoming more and more bare, and the character stripping away the jewelry and hair! All of these suggested a change within the character, but were represented as external factors. As the play continued Marie Antoinette became less materialistic and more realistic. At the beginning we see her outside doing drugs, eating desserts, and practically covered up by the hairpiece and large amounts of jewelry representing her insane materialistic lifestyle worry-free of the world at large. However, later in the play when the Queen starts to gain criticism and riots are on the rise she has to strip away her materials in order to realize the faults that she was living and creating.

    Her whole life she was catered to and given everything that she could ever think of. She did not understand what it meant to struggle or not have things in life. Even during the stripping away of her materialistic ways and possessions, she had someone else doing it for her. She did not actively pursue growth and knowledge. As long as she was sitting pretty, she was fine with the way things were. Ignoring the fact that people struggle and fight for the things that they have. This is very similar to society today.

    There are poor people all over the country effected by the decisions of authority figures, but these individuals making the decisions are not effected by these decisions and, therefore, are not considering the after-effects of such decisions. I found this play representative of society at large and it is represented in the quote “Humans are good. It is society that makes things corrupt.” I wonder what others interpretations of this line was? I took it as once we create a formal power structure within humans things become corrupt just as they did for Maria Antoinette.

    I enjoyed everything about this play! Not one moment was I uninterested.

  22. When I found out the play was set in a more modern lens, I was skeptical. In the past, when I’ve seen traditional work presented in a modern way, it has often seemed forced and unnatural. Luckily, this was not the case for Marie Antoinette. The actors did a wonderful job combining the traditional words of the play with the modern dress and feel of the production. This is especially true with the setup of the stage. Instead of using the typical stage shape, the production used an extended stage that resembled a catwalk. This helped to portray how much Marie Antoinette was on show. Her life was exposed, and nothing was private. Additionally, the stage started off as a cozy, bright area and evolved into an open, dark space. This helped the audience to go through the transformation with Marie, and feel how her world changed throughout the play. These elements were excellent, but not as good as the actors themselves. The actors were able to make me feel what they were going through. This was true no matter the person, and no matter the feeling. For example, listening to Marie and her closed off world, at first, made me angry. She lived a life of privilege, and she was never grateful. However, throughout the play, she brought me into her world and illustrated to the audience how complicated her life is. This even helped me to sympathize with her at times. On the other hand, characters from the revolution also did a god job of illustrating their feelings and emotions. I was able to understand their frustrations, and even though I became somewhat sympathetic to Marie, I was always on the revolutionaries’ side. Overall, the play was made excellent not only because of the modern spin, but also because the actor’s performance made me feel as though I was right there with them during the action.

  23. Of all the plays that we’ve seen this semester, I found the last two that we saw—Awake and Sing! and Marie Antoinette—to be among the most enjoyable. In this post, I’d like to mention some of the things that stood out to me in Marie Antoinette as either a good, bad, or just noteworthy point. It’s not hard for me to find examples of things in the play that I enjoyed. Though a historical play, Marie Antoinette offers an extremely contemporary look at this particular chapter in history. Nominally based on the life of the historical queen of France, Marie Antoinette, it’s a culture shock of the most fantastic kind to be greeted with a queen lounging in a Jacuzzi, dressed in a contemporary (and largely fashionable) wardrobe, with attendants and courtiers similarly dressed. Interspersed throughout the play are massive photo shoots, where everyone on stage strikes a pose to a stage-wide camera flash and flashbulb noise. Another interesting element was the use of symbolism throughout the play. Inexplicably, a stuffed goat is employed to represent the will of the people. This is not only extraordinarily humorous, but also introduces an element of introspection to a relatively indifferent monarch. At one point in the play, Marie pleads to her minders that her spending is “way down” but that a monarch simply must have a certain number of shoes…or something to that effect. One possible lesson of the play, if any is to be drawn, is that other people’s money should probably be spent with a minimal degree of care. To do otherwise, some might say, is not only morally reprehensible, but there’s always the chance that some massive French peasant with his face painted in the colors of the revolution will come and chop your head off. Granted, that may be an extreme scenario, but for those of the class employed in the public sector, it may make you think twice before utilizing the office printer for personal use or sneaking a few paper-clips on your way out. You never really know what’s going to push the peasants over the edge.

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