Dangerous Liaisons

Thomas Sandelands

Stacia Rice is such a team player that she probably doesn't want to be the center of attention here, but she's been absent for more than a year from local stages following the birth of her son, and her return is something to celebrate. She channels Lady Macbeth and every conniving villainess you can name in her turn as the dark-hearted Marquise de Merteuil in Christopher Hampton's play. Bored, idle, and apparently willing to ruin anyone she wishes in her "games," the Marquise would be the foil anywhere else. Here, she is one of the central characters. Joined by her confidant Valmont (John Middleton), they execute a couple of idle plans to pass the time. Like a pair of spiders, they draw the victims into their web, crushing them with kindness and professions of love. Their victims—a young woman and her lover, an older and pious married woman—don't know what hit them until the game is nearly done. Yet the facade isn't perfect, which gives this play its emotional meat. The Marquise and Valmont have feelings for each other—mismatched as they may be—that eventually spread the damage to nearly every character in the play. Rice and Middleton have terrific chemistry, and the cracks in his vain and confident character, and her seeming indifference to it, draw the audience deeper and deeper into their lair. The rest of the cast is top notch as well, centered on marvelous performances by Linda Kelsey, Katherine Moeller, and especially Mo Perry as the women caught up in the machinations. Director Craig Johnson does excellent work with the cast, while set designer Michael Hoover transforms the Minneapolis Theater Garage into a fitting 18th-century location. $20/$30. 711 W. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.870.0723. Through February 4

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