Cabrillo Stage Marie AntoinetteLocal News Theater 

A Theatrical Retelling of the Life and Final Days of Marie Antoinette

By Katelyn Laird

Take a dive into the extravagant and dangerous world of the French monarchy with David Adjmi’s “Marie Antoinette” staged by Cabrillo College’s Theater Arts department and directed by Cabrillo Stage Artistic Director, Andrea Hart. In this dark, witty, and contemporary take on the young queen of France, Marie is a confection created by a society that values extravagance and artifice and one who becomes a target for discontent as civil unrest brews. Written after and inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, the play unabashedly examines wealth division and the cultural strain it can create. As the light and breezy banter at the palace gives way to the surging chants of “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité!” in the streets, Marie Antoinette holds a mirror up to our contemporary society that might just be entertaining itself to death.

From the lavish palatial life at Versaille to the unveiling of a struggling populace and an accelerating revolution, the show depicts a confused society that may display uncomfortable parallels to our own modern world. Cancel culture, smear campaigns, the deification of cultural icons, and the rise of social media may find echoes in a history depicting the simultaneous adoration and hatred of the royal court. 

As Hart illuminates, “This play looks at the ways we idolize celebrity at the same time that we are vilifying it. When you look at the figure of Marie Antoinette, you see a woman who can literally fit any need society has at that moment: Do we need a fashion icon? Great. Do we need an extravagant, heartless whore? You got it!”

Sebastian Hardison as King Louis XVI and Sierra Laird as Marie Antoinette | Photo by Chela O’Brien

Cracks appear in the veneer as Marie struggles to understand her role in their unraveling society, while her husband, Louis XVI flails between indecision and helplessness. Sebastian Hardison enjoys the challenge of portraying the young king. “I think Louis has a lot of range as a character,” Hardison states. “Very fun, comedic at times, very dramatic and sad at times. I think the dynamic between him and Marie is very interesting and fun to play around with.”

Sierra Laird portrays Marie Antoinette in the Cabrillo College production. | Photo by Emily Reynolds

Sierra Laird, who plays Marie Antoinette, is equally excited about the process. The only character who never leaves the stage or the audience’s view, Laird has jumped wholeheartedly into the production experience. “The people are fantastic here, the crew is fantastic,” Laird said. “Aside from that, I think my favorite part has just been the scope of it—the amount of lines, the amount of time on stage, the costume changes onstage. There’s very little room for error, which is stressful at times, but also fun and challenging, and, I think, going to make it a very interesting show.” 

Even the show’s very intentional black box staging, with the actors intimately surrounded by audience on three sides of the stage, is filled with symbolism and the play’s central themes. “It’s this idea that everyone is being watched at all times,” Hart explains. “It’s kinda like equating Versailles with our very own social media platforms, and so we want the audience to feel that way.” Skip Epperson’s set design brilliantly combines spatial logistics with the opulence and luxury of the famed palace. Michael Navarro, who plays friend-of-the-court Axel Ferson, describes the novelty of working within the space. “I think the way it’s staged is very different from what I’ve been used to. …the set we have is very complex, but compact—it’s elegant, it’s gorgeous, it’s beautiful. The marble work is amazing.” 

The “sky-high” wigs and costumes, designed by Maria Crush, are no exception. “The interesting thing is that the show is a mashup between the modern and the historical,” Hart expands. “You might have the classic Marie Antoinette silhouette with the huge bustle under the skirt and a corset, but underneath she’ll have a t-shirt with a printed graphic on it.”  

Ultimately, the show may leave audiences rethinking their perception of the historical figures. As flawed and ignorant as the last French royals may have seemed, their youth and helplessness can’t help but tug on heartstrings as they struggle to grow up together and make sense of the world they’ve inherited. Hardison describes the gradual tragedy of “Marie’s image becoming smeared by the public, the malice felt by the lower class, and why Louis is so unprepared to handle that—Marie also. And why neither of them are prepared to handle the situation.”

Laird’s goal is that the play leaves audience members feeling open-minded. “I hope that people come out of this show thinking about the fact that you never know what’s going on with someone. That we shouldn’t be quick to judge other people, because what we’re perceiving is probably not the whole story, and that we can all be more tolerant toward each other. And also, feed your peasants.”  

If You Go

April 12 to 28, 2024
Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm, Sundays matinees at 2 pm
Tickets: In person at the VAPA Box office which is located at the Crocker Theater
Tickets online: 
Phone: (831) 479-6154


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