Les Enfants Terribles | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Les Enfants Terribles 

Les Enfants Terribles, No Room! Studio. With just a few rudimentary lighting instruments and some well-chosen thrift-shop furniture, designer/director John Musial has transformed the living room of his fifth-floor loft space into a stunning facsimile of a Paris dwelling. But when the actors in his adaptation of Les enfants terribles, Jean Cocteau's 1929 novel of incestuous longings and arrested development, open their mouths we're transported just as quickly back into Musial's living room.

Noted for his inventive work with Lookingglass, Musial employs no end of clever low-budget gimmicks to enliven Cocteau's wistful, troubling tragedy of the sickly Paul and the petulant Elisabeth, a brother and sister whose desperate and fragile love condemns them to misery. Borrowing from a grab bag of cinematic techniques from Cocteau and Welles, he illuminates his actors with naked, swinging lightbulbs and the light from film projectors, stages a snowball fight with crumpled newspapers, and produces fanciful, foreboding shadows on the brick walls.

Neither Musial's direction nor his adaptation, however, are up to the level of his design. The actors perform stiffly and speak in self-consciously stagy accents. Carl Coash as Paul and Laura Kepley as Elisabeth lack the depth and fragility to make their characters plausible or sympathetic. And Musial's script--faithful to a fault to Rosamond Lehmann's 1957 translation--is dated, with overly convoluted dialogue. This production might be worth a look, but it's not worth much of a listen.

--Adam Langer

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