by DICK KEREKES
Players by the Sea opened the controversial dramedy, “Quills” in their Studio Theatre at 106 Sixth Street North, in Jacksonville Beach. This show will run through November 2nd. Call 249-0289 for information and reservations.
This play is based on a true story about the life of Marquis de Sade. Playwright Doug Wright has taken some drama liberties in putting this into a play but the essential startling facts are as history has recorded them. The plot follows the last years of de Sade’s life which he spends in an insane asylum as a punishment for this pornographic/erotic writings. The Marquis continues to write while imprisoned, even though paper, quills, ink are taken away from him. He even uses his own blood to create writings that are smuggled by a laundress Madeleine, who takes them home to read to her blind mother. When he is reduced to living in undergarments, he manages to continue compositions by verbally repeating them to other inmates.
R. DELONE ADKISON is masterful in the role of de Sade who has become a slave of passion and sex and the result is both the destruction of virtue and the exposure of vice. He is erotic and painful, comic and tragic. Addison’s marvelous resonating voice hits the back wall of the theatre with every syllable. His is a performance that will brand itself on the memory of those who see it.
CAMERON HENDERSON is in the demanding role of the prison priest Abbe De Coulmier, a quiet demure individual who at first allows Sade to continue his writing (he never reads any of it), and also allows de Sade to put on plays. Coulmier’s attitude is changed by the new chief doctor, Royer-Collard (ROBERT THAMES). He is a sadist and tyrannical and disgusted with the pornographic writings and has been order by the French government to put a stop to it.
Renee Pelagie played by KAREN OVERSTREET, is de Sade’s wealthy and attractive wife, who wanted her husband imprisoned. A schemer who sometimes involuntarily reveals the pain beneath her glitter because she can no longer attain any social status due to her husband’s writings and reputation.
JAN PETER BUKSAR is Monsieur Prouix, an architect who is building a fabulous house for Royer-Collard using the money of de Sade’s wife. Mr. Buksar doubles back to play the role of Cleante, a humorous asylum lunatic.
Madeleine Leclerc (MEGAN GEORGEO) is the prison’s laundress, and she is enamored with de Sade and trades him a kiss for each page of his erotic writing he gives her. Her scenes with de Sade are comic gems.
The first act is very ribald and witty with all the characters contributing to the humor. Ms. Overstreet is especially humorous as she chatters and jabs from under a glorious mound of light brown hair. She, by the way wears four lovely period gowns, selected, no doubt, by costumers RON SHREVE AND TRACY OLIN.
Director LINDSAY CURRY has cast and directed this well. The first act just zips along, but the pacing in Act II was a bit slow but chalk that up to opening night glitters and the fact this play had no preview audiences prior to opening. I have watched Ms. Curry’s career in theatre since her start in musicals at Orange Park. Beginning by performing, she moved to stage managing, then assistant directing. Last season she directed “God of Carnage” at ABET. She is certainly not afraid of taking on challenging plays to direct.
As you may well have guessed by now, there is some language, many sexual references and for some stomachs, this play may be strong meat. I would not be so cruel to reveal what happens in Act II, but will say it is a bit grim and nasty.
Scenic Designers, Joshua McTiernan and Lindsay Curry and Production Manager Ron Shreve have created a picture perfect prison with huge walls that look very forbidding. The costumes of the men appear to be very accurate for the year l807.
Earlier in the review I said that the playwright has taken some liberties with the truth. In fact Marquis de Sade was very fat when arriving at the asylum. His laundress was actually a fourteen year old girl, with whom he had an affair for four years. The priest Coulmier was only 4 feet tall and was deformed. Finally, de Sade did not die as depicted in the play but died in his sleep.
If you desire for cutting edge plays has been short changed for a while, you won’t want to miss this “Quills”.
by DICK KEREKES