Monday, July 06, 2009

Thérèse Raquin

Photo/Stan Barouh

Neal Bell's brilliant adaptation of Émile Zola's 1867 novel Thérèse Raquin puts a stake through the heart of dry naturalism. With a sense of Ibsen's modernism, he focuses on the stark apathy Raquin feels toward marrying her cousin, Camille ("I can't be frightened to death; I'm already dead and this is hell"), which is all the better for showing her sexual awakening at the hands of the roguish Laurent. Adding to this is Jim Petosa's romantic direction, which finds clever ways to mix such morbidity with dashes of sweetness: ravenous passion, indeed. Much credit to the cast, too: as Raquin, Lily Balsen (like a younger, more innocent Helena Bonham Carter) is haunted by an actual ghost, but what moves us is the way she is haunted by genuine regret. It's a shame that Scott Janes isn't allowed such range, but his Laurent is nonetheless solid, as are the terrific turns of Willie Orbison (Camille) and Helen-Jean Arthur (Camille's mother), both of whom are sharpened by a different sort of passion: rage. It's easy to be poetic, but hard to justify such language, as Thérèse Raquin has done. That's easy to say, but not at all hard to believe for those who have seen it.

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