Marie Antoinette by The Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr, PA
April 15, 2019
Review submitted by Hope Odhner of Academy of the New Church
Whether loved, admired, or despised, the name Marie Antoinette has gone down in history. Now, in their latest production of the same name, the students at Baldwin Upper School present her side of the story.
Marie Antoinette, by David Adjmi, was commissioned by the Yale Repertory Theatre in 2012, and later premiered in New York at Soho Rep. The play follows the title character as she struggles to survive in a new country that seems intent on ripping apart her reputation. With a modern take, the show subtly parallels Marie’s challenges with those of celebrities today, as rumors and hateful lies run rampant. Although her inevitable death comes as no surprise at the end, the story presents her side of the French Revolution, drawing the audience in as it depicts the insecurities, anxieties, and secret desires of the most famous queen of France.
The cast and crew at Baldwin School took on a challenging task, but performed admirably. The team of students, who managed almost all aspects of the show, brought attention to detail and hard work to their research and creations. Whether the thoughtful placement of a beauty mark or the insightful connections between 18th century France and modern times, the students did their best to create a worthwhile show.
Skylar Zachian had a difficult role as Marie, but she managed to capture the regal haughtiness and naive confusion of the queen of France. Emily Seltzer, as her husband Louis XVI, played an endearingly pathetic king with her petulant pouting and timid authority.
Axel Fersen, played by Sam Cappel, brought a charismatic, but slightly mysterious presence as he both courted and consoled the distraught queen. Nahla Yankowy looked every bit the innocent Dauphin, whether happily playing or tragically complaining. Asia Blocker, as Marie’s friend Therese de Lamballe, provided a gentle voice of reason and a warm smile to the confused queen.
Aya Ibikunle took on the role of Assistant Director, coordinating the movements and actions of the ensemble with care. Estella Stein, heading the lighting, artistically painted the mood of each scene with bright colors and startling contrasts. Publicity for the show, provided by Grace Halak and Sydney Zilch, included websites, T-shirts, posters, and an elegant, hand-designed program with thoughtful notes on politics in France today and at the time.
Despite the difficulty of the material, the students at Baldwin School stepped up to the plate and presented a thought-provoking show about Marie Antoinette and her timeless tale.
Review submitted by Anna Bobok of Upper Merion Area High School
“Let them eat cake!” infamously proclaimed the queen, but the Baldwin School gave audiences a lot more to chew on with their production of Marie Antoinette!
David Adjmi’s acclaimed play follows the titular tyrant from the height of her rule to her downfall at the hands of her own people. Adjmi’s contemporary rendering of Marie allows for moments of humor and whimsy in Act I, but the mood quickly shifts to a harrowing glimpse at utter madness. Unlike most retellings of the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette offers the queen’s perspective, suggesting she might just be a victim after all.
Baldwin’s cast was full of dedicated performers, from the dynamic Marie to the statue-esque guards. The actors utilized facial expression and body language effectively to create over-the-top characters and comedic moments. The entire cast had crisp diction and strong projection as well, which really helped the audience understand the complex material in the show.
Skylar Zachian commanded the stage as the sarcastic and frivolous Marie Antoinette. Zachian’s impressive memorization of lines, endless quick changes, and her appearance in every scene of the show were difficult alone, but Zachian took the character to the next level with her convincing progression of insanity through the show. By her side was husband Louis XVI, portrayed by Emily Seltzer. Seltzer’s characterization of the king as childish and timid countered Zachian’s forceful queen flawlessly, making their scenes together especially humorous.
The minor characters of the show were just as powerful, making their limited time on stage count. Jattu Fahnbulleh’s portrayal of Marie’s brother, Joseph, was incredibly impactful, as her steadfast intensity drove her single scene. Katrina Conklin and Asia Blocker were perfectly sophisticated and snobby as Yolande de Polignac and Therese de Lamballe, respectively, highlighting Marie’s isolation with their clear establishment of fraudulent friendships. Caroline Lingle was a crowd favorite as the mysterious talking Sheep, with blunt remarks and a nonchalance that were very comical.
The space was very intimate, allowing audience members to see everything technical up close and personal. The set was very minimal but full of little details, like broken mirrors and a green turf area. Costumes, hair and make-up captured both the 18th Century and modern society well, from extravagant wigs to ripped jeans. The program for the show was full of painstaking love from the marketing team, each picture included being edited or created by the students themselves.
Baldwin’s Marie Antoinette was certainly one for the history books!