Hear the story leading up to this monumental moment in Joel Gross’s “Marie Antoinette: The Color of Flesh,” which begins in previews on July 28 at Performance Network Theatre.
This sexy drama, running through August 28, will feature Jill Dion, Drew Parker (“The Sins of Sor Juana”) and Chelsea Sadler (“The Little Dog Laughed”), as Marie. It is directed by Shannon Ferrante.
History gets a refreshingly sexy face in this sumptuous study of an imagined love triangle between Marie Antoinette; her portrait painter, Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun; and a fictitious aristocratic lover to both, Count Alexis de Ligne. Spanning two politically explosive decades surrounding the French Revolution, this elegant boudoir drama weaves politics, history, romance and art.
The three characters in Gross’s play are all based on historical figures, some more well known than others. Marie Antoinette was married to the future King of France at the age of 15, and as Queen she became known—and hated for—her lavish way of life. From gambling and trips to Paris to Le Petit Trianon and countless portraits—many of which were painted by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun—Marie became known as Madame Deficit.
By her final years, Marie matured and embraced her responsibilities as queen, trying her best to resolve what had deteriorated in her adoptive country. Unfortunately, it was too late to resolve her public image, and to save her life. After Louis XVI was killed, Marie was spared for nearly a year. Despite growing up the daughter of the Emperor and Empress of Austria alongside fifteen siblings, by the time she was an adult most of her family was gone. Only her brother remained in Austria; and he never came to her rescue.
Le Brun, who spent five years of her childhood in a convent, inherited her fan painter father’s talent and was painting professionally by her early teens. This art-dealer’s wife painted more than thirty portraits of the queen and her family in six years, which resulted in her being viewed as the official portraitist for Marie Antoinette. Her work can be seen as the National Museum of Women in the Arts in DC.
The rakish character of Alexis is based on Swedish Count Axel Fersen, with whom Marie Antoinette had a rumored affair for years. Her third child was born exactly nine months after a visit by the count, which stirred even more public discontent for their queen. Before her death, Fersen helped coordinate an escape attempt for Marie and Louis that ultimately failed. To this day, the truth behind the affair remains a secret.
Artistic Director David Wolber said “I think that audiences are going to be surprised at how likeable, and even funny, they find Marie Antoinette to be. This play is historical fiction, so the illicit affairs and secret exchanges of the play never happened, as far as we know, but the character that Joel Gross has written is really rooted in her humanity -- she wasn’t just a flippant young girl who joked that the peasants should eat cake when they couldn’t afford bread.”
Weekly performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm, with 3pm matinees on Saturday August 13th and 27th.
Tickets can be ordered at the Performance Network Box Office at 734-663-0681, online at
www.performancenetwork.org or by coming to the Performance Network Theatre (120 East Huron St., Ann Arbor, 48104) Monday-Saturday 11-6 or one hour before a performance. Tickets are priced at $22 - $41, with discounts available for seniors, members, students and groups. There is a pay-what-you-can performance on July 28 (suggested donation of $10).