Stagestruck: Force of Nature

WAM Theatre exists on two levels: to produce work that foregrounds women playwrights and performers, and to tangibly support, with a portion of ticket sales, organizations that work to better the lives of women and girls. Emilie: La Marquise du Chatelet Defends Her Life Tonight brings its own bifurcated story to that mission. First performed here in 2013, WAM is reviving it this weekend and next in a guest appearance at Shakespeare & Company.  The production’s nonprofit beneficiary is the Berkshire-based Flying Cloud Institute, which provides creative science and art experiences for young people and educators.

In Lauren Gunderson’s delightfully witty and provocative play, the 18th-century mathematician, philosopher and linguist comes briefly back from the dead to make her case for a life that was equal parts intellect and passion. The woman who, from girlhood, was said to “flaunt her mind” also flaunted her independence and flouted social conventions. She engaged in a long-term adulterous relationship with the controversial philosopher-poet Voltaire, but refused to be “a mere appendage” to a great man – it was a meeting of minds as well as bodies. In the male-dominated Enlightenment, she proved herself an intellectual force in her own right and a pioneer of modern  natural science.

Kristen van Ginhoven’s lavish, exuberantly physical production draws out all the mind/heart parallels, as Emilie (a dazzling Kim Stauffer) seeks to reconcile Newtonian physics with Leibniz’s theory of a universal “living force.”

March 30–April 3 & April 7–9 in S&Co’s Tina Packer Playhouse, 70 Kemble St, Lenox, MA. Tickets and info here or (413) 637-3353. 

Photo by Enrico Spada
A version of this article appeared in the Valley Advocate’s 11/21/13 issue.

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Chris Rohmann

Author: Chris Rohmann

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