Bride & Groom MOM Subscribe

Find Local

John Malkovich Wants You to Brush Up On Your French

The award-winning actor directs “Les Liaisons Dangereuses”—in French—at the Lansburgh Theatre.

Photograph of Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Gaspard Leclerc.

Twenty-four years after John Malkovich starred in the movie Dangerous Liaisons, the actor is directing a French-language production of the play Les Liaisons Dangereuses, based on the drama by Christopher Hampton, which in turn was taken from a novel by Choderlos de Laclos. The show comes to Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Lansburgh Theatre December 6 through 9, following a run earlier this year at Paris’s Théâtre de l’Atelier.

The new version of the story—about the romantic manipulations of immoral aristocrats Vicomte de Valmont and Marquise de Merteuil—fuses 18th-century culture with modern trappings, so the actors wear corsets and wigs over jeans (Malkovich also helped design the costumes) and text one another love notes and photos. “The book was written when the French had nothing to do but seduce people,” says Théâtre de l’Atelier artistic director Laura Pels, “so it’s historical in terms of presenting the way people lived, but in a modern way.”

Malkovich auditioned more than 300 student actors before selecting a troupe whose members were all under 25, in keeping with the ages of the novel’s characters. While Hampton’s play was nominated for a Tony Award when it ran on Broadway in 1987, Pels says the adaptation is truer to the novel’s spirit: “The French is very saucy, so it would be a pity to have it in English. It’s not that it has to be done in French, but it has to be done in a way that gives a sense of what motivated these people. I don’t think Malkovich would have done it in any other language.”

Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Dec. 6 to 9 at Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Lansburgh Theatre. Tickets ($60 to $75) at

This article appears in the December 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Most Popular on Washingtonian

Take a Look Inside Scream City, DC's Only Major Haunted Attraction

Preview: Washington National Opera's Halloween Costume Sale Is as Awesome as It Sounds

Where to Find the Best Pizzas Around DC

25 Things to Do in DC This October

Here's What's Been Canceled or Rescheduled Due to Hurricane Joaquin

14 Pairs of Stylish Rain Shoes That Are Better Than Rain Boots

Things to Do in DC This Weekend October 1-4: Bentzen Ball, Dead Man's Run, and Craft2Wear

9 Businesses You Remember If You Grew Up in Washington

What Could Happen to Washington If a Hurricane Hits