A captive to fashion
A captive to fashion
Photo courtesy of Stages Repertory Theatre

UPDATED: Marie Antoinette: Celebrity Scapegoat of the 18th Century

Update: Because of popular demand the Stages production of Marie Antoinette has been extended through November 9.

We all know the story of Marie Antoinette: spoiled rich queen who got rather severely punished when the people of France got tired of all the partying. Several authors and directors (Sofia Coppola for one) have taken turns retelling her story and playwright David Adjmi is one of them.

Stages Repertory Theatre is bringing Adjmi's vision to its stage complete with sky high hairdos, gorgeous ball gowns and a truth-telling sheep (a surreal element) who attempts a lifestyle intervention for the girl from Austria (sadly unsuccessful).

Sam Houston University prof Leslie Swackhamer is back in Houston to direct the two-act Marie Antoinette with its 12-member cast and has discarded the starker version presented in New York City.

"Fashion and excess is what Marie Antoinette is all about; you're going to get some fashion and some excess. It's going to be quite a feast for the eyes in terms of design," she says.

Swackhamer predicts that audiences will discover that the title character was not all bad. "Marie Antoinette was just a very convenient scapegoat sort of like our celebrities right now. She was 14 years old when she went to France to marry. That's a pretty young girl.. And then Louis XV died unexpectedly so they were teenagers when they were made king and queen. There's certain things about them you actually like including she's got spirit in the face of quite a number of obstacles. Surprisingly you get to where you actually like her."

Although set in the Eighteenth Century, the dialogue is all in the modern vernacular, and Swackhamer says the story really resonates with audiences today. "Every major fashion designer has done a collection on Marie Antoinette. She's our first celebrity devoured by her own sense of celebrity. The ultimate fashion victim."

Marie Antoinette opens October 8 and continues through November 2 9 at Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway. Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays. For information, call 713-527-0123 or visit stagestheatre.com. $19 to $54.

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