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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
THÈRÉSE RAQUIN
at Roundabout Studio 54

SMOTHER MOTHER
By SANDY MACDONALD


You’d have to spend an evening steeped in Edward Gorey tomes to approximate the deliciously mordant tone of Helen Edmundson’s adaptation of the 1868 Zola novel Thèrése Raquin, as conceived by director Evan Cabnet. Guilty laughs start burbling up the minute Madame Raquin (Judith Light, playing it straight) bustles in to minister to her “delicate” (not) genius (not) son Camille (marvelously ego-puffed Gabriel Ebert).
 
Smother-mothers don’t come any more stifling, or deluded. Madame has another young adult in her care: her niece, the titular Thèrése (Keira Knightley), who gets the classic orphan treatment, which is to say, presumptive servitude. It makes financial, if not romantic sense to marry her off to Camille (her first cousin), whose notions of foreplay stalled somewhere in early childhood. His notion of flirtation is to give Thèrése a series of hearty shoves.
 
Little wonder that when the Raquins move to Paris to advance Camille’s putative prospects, Therese is ripe for an amour fou – which she finds in the form of Camille’s far dishier co-worker Laurent (Matt Ryan). Knightley may be limited as an actor, but feral passion is her forte. Clapping eyes on this relative Adonis for the first time, she stands stock-still in the doorway, struck dumb with lust but exuding desire from every pore. The second they’re left alone, she’s on him like blanquette on veau.
 
What exactly does Laurent see in Thèrése? Mutually convenient physical cravings, to start, but also perhaps a solution to his own lack of agency. He’s a disowned aristo, reduced to (shudder) working for a living. The Raquins funereal apartment may be grim (designer Beowulf Boritt has created a deadly formal dirt-brown tomb), but it’s palatial compared to the skylit garret – suspended like a world apart – where Laurent pursues his “art” as a pretext to bed models.
 
Of the illicit pair, who is more culpable? Is Therese, in her naïveté, being played? Trust Zola to provide a chilling comeuppance that may make you regret those complicit early chuckles.

 


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