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Tuesday, Oct 24, 2017
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'Quills' a titillating must-see

TAMPA - Any play that requires a warning label deserves a looksee. Such is the case with Doug Wright's "Quills," that is rife with verbalized sexual imagery, violence and nudity. This play is best suited for adults who appreciate forays into debauchery. And really, who doesn't? With David M. Jenkins at the helm and Giles Davies as the Marquis de Sade, Jobsite Theater's production of "Quills" lives up to the depravity their caution sign promised. And they did it well. Wright's ambitious story depicts the last days of the Marquis de Sade. Imprisoned in Charenton Asylum for his so-called pornographic writings, the Marquis continues to pen and disseminate his work. Madeleine LeClerc (Nicole Jeannine Smith), the in-house seamstress, is both his muse and messenger, and the Abbe de Coulmier (Matt Lunsford) acts as the voice for morality.
The social status of de Sade's wife (Katrina Stevenson) has dropped significantly considering her association with the pervy Marquis. She is keen to muzzle his means of expression at any cost, which appeals to Charenton's greedy and opportunistic chief physician, Dr. Royer-Collard (Owen Robertson). Royer-Collard continues to push the Abbe to reform the Marquis. A battle of wills breaks out, with morality, art and truth at its core. Wright crafted a fascinating account of 19th century mores. Ironically, the depth of this work as a whole diminished the titillation of his saucy words and gestures. A lesser company and cast might have missed that mark, emphasizing the pelvic thrusts and naughty bits. But Jobsite nailed it. Davies portrayed the Marquis as an elegant libertine. He never waivered from his character's emphatic belief in art and expression, even when completely naked on stage. Davies seemed to clothe himself in words and, ultimately, thoughts, resulting in a stellar performance. He was so good, in fact, that he achieved what any actor working in the buff might hope for: distraction from the obvious. As the Abbe, Lunsford conveyed a repressed, controlled soul and moved smoothly into the momentum of his character's own madness. Two hokey moments muddied the waters a bit: the vision of Christ in the Abbe's dream sequence and the Marquis' disembodied finale. Overall, however, this looksee turned out to be a must-see.

Performances through Nov. 6 at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, Shimberg Playhouse, 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa; (813) 222-1001 or visit www.strazcenter.org; $24.50

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