Free of Protesters, Paris Theaters Reopen With Little Imagination

The best scenes actually come when Laura, Amanda’s fragile daughter, is left alone with Jim, her old high-school crush. Cyril Gueï makes ...


The best scenes actually come when Laura, Amanda’s fragile daughter, is left alone with Jim, her old high-school crush. Cyril Gueï makes a kind, gentle Jim, and van Hove’s choice of a Black actor for the role reinforces the racial dynamics implicit in Amanda’s rose-tinted vision of the Old South. Gueï’s connection with Justine Bachelet’s Laura is genuine enough that for a second, a happy denouement seems within reach.

Laura, played as touchingly muted by Bachelet, briefly comes alive before resigning herself. Van Hove has given her a classic French song to sing as she gives Jim her glass unicorn as an adieu: Barbara’s 1970 “L’Aigle Noir” (“The Black Eagle”), about a traumatic childhood memory that feels exactly right for Laura’s character.

While capacity remained limited until this week to 35 percent of seats, a number of other theaters here rushed to reopen as soon as it became possible. At the tiny À La Folie Theater, the actress and director Laetitia Lebacq debuted a rare production of Jean-Paul Sartre’s 1946 play, “The Respectful Whore,” which is set, like “The Glass Menagerie,” in the American South.

While Sartre wrote a number of plays, they have mostly fallen out of fashion on the French stage. It’s a shame, because “The Respectful Whore,” while occasionally over-explanatory, sets up its central conflict in a compact, efficient manner. It takes place entirely at the home of a prostitute, Lizzie, who is caught up in a case of blatant racial discrimination. Two Black men are accused of raping her as a way of exculpating the white son of a senator, who shot one of them.

Lizzie herself is overtly racist, yet refuses to falsely testify that she was raped — until the senator and his son force her hand. Lebacq navigates the role of Lizzie without smoothing over her contradictions and occasional foolishness, and Baudouin Jackson brings pathos to the resignation of one of the nameless accused in the face of normalized racism. Philippe Godin, as the smooth-talking senator, and Bertrand Skol, who plays his repressed son, also make an excellent case for Sartre’s character development.

As summer nears, some venues have also turned to alfresco theater to draw audiences. At the Théâtre de la Tempête, Thomas Quillardet brought two shows adapted from movies by the Nouvelle Vague filmmaker Éric Rohmer. He was renowned for the quality of his dialogue, and both “Where Hearts Meet” (inspired by two films, 1984’s “Full Moon in Paris” and 1986’s “The Green Ray”) and “The Tree, the Mayor and the Mediatheque” flow and fizz like good champagne.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Free of Protesters, Paris Theaters Reopen With Little Imagination
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