“Sometimes I feel like a game that other people play but without me.”
So laments the famous title character of David Adjmi’s slick but skin-deep tragicomedy “Marie Antoinette.”
Over 90 minutes, it traces the life of the woman who went from a queen to a pawn — from privilege to prisoner.
We get snapshots of Marie’s life. She eats bonbons and bitches with high-haired frenemies, and seizes the moment to quip, of course, “Let them eat cake.”
She grouses about husband King Louis XVI (Steven Rattazzi), who can’t give her a child, and flirts with rumored lover Axel Fersen (Chris Stack). And in an out-there moment, Marie communes with a whip-smart sheep (David Greenspan). It’s odd but fitting, since she treated peasants like beasts.
Adjmi (“Elective Affinities,” “Stunning”) is known for his smarts and out-of-the-box thinking. But he is hardly sticking his neck out by steeping Marie in modern attitudes and rhythms. Sofia Coppola did likewise in her 2006 film, and it makes for a bit of an echo effect. The play really snaps to life in its second half, when the script blooms with compassion.
Rebecca Taichman’s stylishly spare staging and ace cast show off the play to the max. The invaluable Marin Ireland (“Reasons to Be Pretty”) is tireless and terrific as Marie.
If her early mean-girl inflections are too obvious (and they are), Ireland’s performance grows in complexity as Marie takes stock and some responsibility as her date with the guillotine looms. “I was built to be this thing,” Marie moans, “and now they’re killing me for it.”
Self-awareness trumps snark.