Review – Dangerous – Above the Stag Theatre

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Above the Stag has become the only pub theater in London I frequent; its emphasis on gay-friendly productions dovetails nicely with my own theatrical interests. Their summer season started on Wednesday with Dangerous, an all-male version of “Dangerous Liaisons.” I’d convinced my friend Andrew to come with me based on that, but apparently I confused him a bit; he thought it was being done a la Pirates of Penzance, with the roles being male and female but all played by men. No, no, let no one be misled, this play is about gay men scheming about who they sleep with and treating it all like a game with no rules as long as one achieves one’s goals. It’s very much in keeping with the original “Dangerous Liaisons,” provided you’re clear (let me repeat) that all the roles are male and the setting is modern London (and Bournemouth, described originally as Brighton, which is clearer for the geographically challenged such as myself). Even better, the website promised “this production contains male nudity,” which, given that I was planning on going as part of my birthday celebrations, made it all seem even more enticing.

NOTE: the program appears to have credited the wrong people with the wrong roles. I am assuming blond Matthew Blake is Alexander Valmont and brunette Luke Harris is actually Marcus; if the actors in fact have the wrong pictures attached to the program and not the wrong names, my apologies.

So I was a large glass of rose’ to the wind when the show started, figuring that would lead to the greatest enjoyment and enhance the general joie de vivre of the evening. As the lights brightened, we had a piercingly blue-eyed Rosemonde (Stewart Dunseith) playing Scrabble with the shifty schemer Marcus (Luke Harris); Rosemonde is apparently not long for this world and Marcus’s working on getting his name at the top of Rosemonde’s will. As R retires for the evening, our other major schemer, Alexander (Matthew Blake), appears. Marcus wants to whinge about how his lover is cheating (well, almost) with his personal trainer Jason (Jon R Harrison), who rather insultingly isn’t even putting out as he’s waiting for “twoo wuv” before sex; Alexander, meanwhile, is crowing about his new infatuation with an almost-priest he “accidentally” maneuvered into finding him in flagrante. Can Alexander seduce this soon-to-be man of the cloth? More importantly, can he use his “no one can resist me” charms to wreak revenge on Marcus’s faithless boyfriend – by seducing his personal trainer – and thus win the prize of a night with Marcus?

Well, if you’ve seen the movie or read the book, there aren’t a lot of mysteries here about the story that is going to be told; the joy is all in watching it unfold, as the heartless duo put their pieces into play – and get a piece or two on the way. The lies and tales all become increasingly hysterical, as Alexander portrays himself to one person as a near-suicidal, wanna-be straight boy and to another as a selfless soul who only wants to see young love united; meanwhile Marcus is manipulating one person after another and making sure that the final outcome will be the one to most benefit himself.

Making this play modern and gay-male oriented made it a hell of a lot of fun; we have characters emailing and texting each other, posting incriminating videos on the internet, and generally creating as much trouble as modern technology can make possible. I also felt the emphasis on a culture of gossip and reputation might be one that felt more real in a more closed society than that that is London as a whole; I could absolutely believe that one could easily be very well known very quickly in such a scene, a critical element for making the tension seem real. And the differences between London and Brighton seemed very natural; overall, the translation from the original setting to this one worked well. An

The cast was a bit mixed, but I’m pleased to say our leads were not only handsome but also convincing, both as they lied to their “friends” and as they lied to each other – and to themselves. I especially loved the scene when Alexander shoved chocolate rolls into Jason’s mouth, leaving poor Mr. Harrison with so much food in his mouth he could barely finish his scene, which ends with a kiss. It was positively sadistic. I’m afraid I was laughing so hard I might have disturbed the actors; on the other hand, a woman at the end of the row was apparently providing a running commentary throughout the play, which was so noticeable the cast members were talking about it after the show. (“She was wonderful! We wanted her to come every night!”) However, I had some problems with the ending, in which Rosemonde finishes the Scrabble game with the word “schemer.” A fifty point, seven letter bonus? How was that possible when he had clearly just put the word on so it met up with another one? It would have had to have been six letters at the most! Of course, I had originally heard “schema” (damn those English accents) so I was even more wrought up before Andrew clarified my mistake. Oh well. Overall, I had a grand time, and if you like your plays rude, raunchy, and fun, Dangerous is probably right up your alley.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Friday, June 18th, 2010. Dangerous continues through July 11th and will be followed by Blink Twice, which I’m REALLY chuffed about seeing.)

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3 Responses to “Review – Dangerous – Above the Stag Theatre”

  1. Katherine Ives Says:

    Hi, I’m dong the press for Dangerous and justw anted to say thank you for coming. I’m so pleased you enjoyed the show and like the venue….and yes, I’m afraid there were a few rogue programmes which crept through with the names of Marcus and Alexander wrongly credited. My apologies. I thought we’d binned them all but it looks like there are a few waifs and strays hanging around – I’ll investigate. all the best
    K

  2. Ian Says:

    I guess wine is the key…! I just couldn’t separate this from either the book or the film and so I was constantly comparing them (the road to ruin I know) and so I ended up feeling a little disappointed. If nothing else, I hate that some characters get happy endings. Oh well.

    • webcowgirl Says:

      There’s a Korean film version of this that’s utterly evil – “Untold Scandal” – I recommend it highly (4 stars).

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