The life of Marie Antoinette has been adapted countless times throughout history in different formats.The Steppenwolf Theatre Company is presenting her with a 21st-century lens, and let’s just say this production about the former Queen of France is on fleek—for all the non-Millennials that means on point.
If Kanye West ever did a play about Marie Antoinette it would probably look similar to what the Steppenwolf Theatre Company has produced with it being part play, part fashion show, and all attitude set in late-18th century France. However, those who might find that kind of style arrogant and distasteful just need to take a second and realize that it might be the perfect lens to tell the story of Marie Antoinette who is one of the world’s earliest celebrities and possibly one of the world’s earliest celebrity train wrecks. Having a 21st century soundtrack and all the glitz and glamour of fashion week add that celebrity atmosphere that most are familiar with today therefore making Marie Antoinette feel contemporary.
The style is what grabs you but Alana Arenas’ interpretation of the Queen of France keeps you around. When you come in knowing how the play ends it takes a great actress to keep you interested and Arenas does that by leaps and bounds. Yet, she doesn’t do it by making you feel any sympathy for Marie Antoinette but finding a way to keep you absolutely enthralled at every moment of ego, grandeur, obliviousness, pettiness, and annoyance. The audience becomes captured by her performance because it is hard to resist looking at a train wreck. While you might never feel sympathy for her, what Arenas and the play does great is make you realize that the creation of Marie Antoinette did not happen in a vacuum. The contemporary style makes you realize that if Marie Antoinette lived today the world would be outraged that an illiterate 14-year-old girl was basically transferred to a monarch for $200,000. This realization is the true success of David Adjmi’s words and Robert O’Hara’s direction.
“Marie Antoinette” runs through May 10 at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company located at 1650 N. Halsted St. For tickets, showtimes, and more information visit steppenwolf.org/Plays-Events/productions/index.aspx?id=624.