liaisons breaks dangerous new ground

{ BY JONATHAN YOUNG } As Cal State San Marcos is trying to define its traditions, the Moonlight Amphitheater is breaking a tradition held by most of North County's community theaters. Instead of relying on tame classic musicals, the Moonlight has put together a drama/comedy production that can be considered a risque sex show.

Making its San Diego premiere, the Vista cast presents Les Liaisons Dangereuses through Feb. 16.

With a one-set stage, 11 cast members and a story from Choderlos de Laclos, the plot tells of revenge, deception, sex, love and cruelty. The close-knit cast performs a marvelous production and shows, in very plain language and action, why this show is promoted as "for mature audiences only."

"This show gives us a license to do a lot of things you can't do," said lead actress Patti Goodwin. She plays La Marquise de Marteuil, a proper French woman who is anything but proper behind closed doors.

Goodwin dominates the stage of "Dangerous Liaisons" with her performance while de Marteuil dominates the other characters with her blackmail. Goodwin's performance is stunning.

With the help of crisp direction from Gary Krinke, she moves around the stage with a glow of innocence when the welcome mat is out -- and puts on a better show when the doors are closed.

"She is everything I wouldn't want to be ... but it's something that I can set aside from myself and have fun with," Goodwin said.

Goodwin has many musical performances behind here, such as Anna in the Moonlight's The King and I, in Starlight's The Wizard of Oz, 42nd Street and The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940. This is her first serious non-musical role and she has made the transition perfectly.

Her male counterpart is played by Roy Guenther Werner. As le Vicomte de Valmost, Werner makes no distinction between private and public; his on-stage love affairs outnumber the cast members and contribute to the reputation of le Vicomte.

Wermer has an easy part. His lines and appearances are many and difficult, but the ease comes from the opportunity to seduce and sexually arouse the female characters. He plays the part with perfection and is one cast member who can associate with his character.

"I was this part when I was young," Werner said in reference to his days in college. "I had experience to draw off of. I feel very comfortable with this part."

Werner joins the Moonlight after play Rev. David Lee in the highly-acclaimed The Foreigner at North Coast Repertory Theater. He has performed in Julius Caesar, The Tempest and the Moonlight's Brigadoon.

Werner's character is a the reason why this show is not for a young audience. His sexually-explicit language -- and his unique was of talking about sex without being explicit -- can be more corrupting than his actually performance of sex and seduction. Without giving this show an R or X rating, Werner's character successfully performs that art of sex several times on stage.

His first victim is Cevile Volanges, played by Bets Malone. Malone joined the cast late, after a character dropped out, but picked up quickly and performed a flawless performance opening night with only one week of rehearsal.

"This is a chance to be bad and not get in trouble," Malone said. Also dedicating most of her performances to musicals, Malone joins the Moonlight's drama after playing the lead in the fall production of Little Shop of Horrors.

With the show performing on Valentine's Day, this would be the perfect show after a romantic dinner. Be prepared for a shocking, revealing, dirty and fantastic show -- and leave the kids at home.

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