THE PROMISE OF SEX (BROKEN)
by Cindy Pierre
published January 30, 2009
now playing at the Beckett on Theatre Row
With sex at the forefront of Emilie's Voltaire's press materials, one
would expect the production to steam up the glasses of the very scholarly-looking people in attendance during the night I was a
patron. Unfortunately, apart from a few lively and entertaining moments, Emilie's Voltaire does very little to arouse. This new period piece by Arthur Giron may have Voltaire (Michael Medeiros) and Emilie (Amy Lyn Stewart),
two of France's most notable historical characters, at its center, but as captivating as they are in theory, the actors playing them
are not enough to sustain interest in their background.
With a paper-strewn set by Jito Lee and a Voltaire writing feverishly in a bathtub (that doubles as a believable carriage),
Emilie's Voltaire's opening sequences have great promise to deliver as a factual,
sexy and intellectual account of the pair's 16-year love affair. Except there's very little
romance or even lust exchanged between the French Enlightenment writer (who penned Candide ) and
the married scientist.
Medeiros' Voltaire is idealistic with a forced passion both in his manner and his voice. Under Kevin Confoy's tempered direction,
he is occasionally funny and touching, but plays much too wimpy for his “I love women and words” line to be credible. Of course, by title
and narration, Giron sets Emilie up to be the dominant partner. Emilie is very much the
aristocrat, with Giron's carefully scripted lines and the haughtiness in her voice, but she comes across as being too callous. She may don
a costume by Carol Pelletier that looks like a red riding hood cape, but she's also the wolf. When she says “the more they suffer, the more
my heart enlarges” about the many men in her life, the audience knows that, sadly, this includes Voltaire.
Thematically, Giron touches but doesn't expound upon the duo's lives,
together or apart. There is enough here to give you the quick and dirty version of Voltaire's
persecutions and Emilie's dysfunctional family life, but not enough to get you well-versed.
Unfortunately, the relationship between them, the focus of the play, is not “sexually-driven”....or “intellectually-fueled”, at least not any
further than the dialogue allows. Emilie's Voltaire
may be a nice brush with history, but it should be a sensual stroke.
cindypierre @ stageandcinema.com