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Review: Marie Antoinette at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre

The Woolly Mammoth Theatre, one of my favorite theaters in Washington, opened its 35th season with a bang, and a bit of cake.

David Adjmi’s Marie Antoinette started out by making us laugh at the ridiculous Marie, totally contemporary, complete with flashing paparazzi bulbs, hot tubs, allusions to shabby chic, and thumping nightclub music.

Credit: “Photos by Stan Barouh”
Credit: “Photos by Stan Barouh”

Her struggle is real, yo: So much partying, so much gossip, just a girl trying to make a normal life in an excessive world completely devoid of any sort of privacy. She paints a strikingly similar picture to, well, many young celebrity women in the world right now.

It’s funny in a slightly uncomfortable, too-close-to-home way, and a gentle reminder that there have always been powerful, famous women who have captivated the world, some of whom had the weight of a nation on their shoulders.

Credit: “Photos by Stan Barouh”
Credit: “Photos by Stan Barouh”

The famous story is there, following the iconic and controversial queen Marie and her awkward, nerdy king husband through their lives and ultimate death-by-revolution. And it gets touching; Marie even gets quite sympathetic and complex.

It flies by—by the end of the first act, the couple and their young son are already captured. The second act is them in captivity, with Marie becoming introspective, winding into madness. The director, it seems, is making a comment on how, even today, we love to obsess over celebrity and then, ultimately revel in its destruction (or breakdowns).

Credit: “Photos by Stan Barouh”
Credit: “Photos by Stan Barouh”

The star of the show is Woolly Company member Kimberly Gilbert, who takes on the titular role like a pro. I saw her in Stupid Fucking Bird a few months ago, in quite a different character, and Kimberly shows her acting depth in Marie Antoinette.

The pivotal scene is toward the end. When Marie is the last of her family left, when the insanity kicks in. She simply can’t accept the inevitable democracy. She finishes the play in tears and tragedy.

On stage through Oct. 12. Get tickets here.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Co.
641 D St. N.W.
Washington, D.C.


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