Treacherous Pen Pals: Head Trick Theatre presents Dangerous Liaisons web series

Providence’s Head Trick Theatre is all about live performance and sharing space with an audience; however, COVID forced them to shift. Their latest production is a web series, Dangerous Liaisons, adapted and directed by Head Trick founder Rebecca Maxfield from the novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. “I think it works as an episodic structure. Our production is based directly on the novel rather than being an adaptation of the existing play,” Maxfield says.

In the story, master manipulator the Marquise de Merteuil seeks revenge on a former lover by trying to arrange the premarital seduction of his young and naïve bride-to-be, Cécile. However, her dearest friend, the Vicomte de Valmont, has other prey in mind: He wants to seduce the seemingly unassailable Madame de Tourvel, a virtuous married woman. The story of sexual and romantic war games is told through letters, which lends itself well to current realities.

“The story is really well-suited to the conditions we’re working under right now, with everyone writing these letters or creating these videos from their homes or wherever they’re stuck at the time, when paper or a screen is the only means you have of communicating with people,” says Maxfield.  

How did all this first come together? “I think we had auditions for it in May, so it’s taken a while for it to be completed and start airing,” Maxfield says. “Everything was filmed at home via actors’ webcams. Auditions were open to people in any geographic location, but most people are local and have worked with me before.”

Maxfield met with actors in a Zoom meeting, which she says “was pretty much like what a live rehearsal would be like so we could get on the same page theatrically.” The main cast includes Stephanie Traversa, Pooja Usgaonkar, Dan J. Ruppel, Gail Rosewood, Charlie Santos and Sarah Sinclair. “I’m so excited to finally start showing the world what we were working on during the summer and fall,” says Maxfield.

What’s next for Head Trick? “We are in rehearsals for an audio production for A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Maxfield says. This will be a site-specific audio piece. “I didn’t just want to do a Zoom reading of something. Rather than sit in your house listening in one sitting, it will be released for download with guidelines for where to listen to specific scenes, such as a natural setting, or where you might go for a feeling of authority.”

She explains, “In a normal show, the presence of the audience impacts the show in a certain way. The actors feed off the audience’s response. If you choose to listen to the forest scenes in a super deep forest, versus sitting by a river with river sounds and different bird sounds, there’s a different feel. It was important to me to create something where the audience was a partner the way that they are in live theater.”

The Dangerous Liaisons intrigue unfolds with new episodes every Tuesday and Friday. Each episode runs 5 to 10 minutes in length and airs at 8pm on Head Trick’s Youtube channel (bit.ly/headtrickyoutube).

Dangerous Liaisons is free to watch. Donations are appreciated and can be made through Head Trick’s web store (bit.ly/dangerousdonations). Note: This series contains sexual themes and references to non-consensual sex. For more information, visit headtricktheatre.org or fb.com/headtricktheatre.