The bias in favor of artists is also built into the play. (Wright's program notes say that he has written two other plays about the subversive power of art.) In Tom Ligon, who plays Royer-Collard, however, Metzo has something close to a worthy opponent. This character is less interested in squelching the writer's spirit than he is in using Sade for his own means. A lively subplot finds the doctor paying an architect to build a chateau so he can imprison his own promiscuous wife, a scheme that might have fallen out of a Sade story.
Ligon, a deft actor, juggles a great deal of innuendo that surrounds his role. Particularly enjoyable is his attempt to charge Sade's wife for the hospital property that is destroyed in the big orgy: beds with restraints, several branding irons, and a Saint Andrew's cross. If that doesn't sound like bondage equipment, well, what does?
The smaller ensemble roles (especially Elizabeth Dimon as Sade's wife Renee Pelagie) are also well handled and a joy to watch. Where the production falters is in the casting of Kelly AuCoin as the Abbe de Coulmier. This is a difficult part to pull off because the audience is meant to find him first silly and then repulsive. More so than Sade, the priest carries a great deal of the play on his shoulders. After all he is the character who is most transformed by his efforts to quell Sade's writing.
In creating him I'm not sure that the playwright has given the priest much psychological depth. He exists primarily to cut up Sade and then to symbolize how both individuals and societies suffer when they assume the role of censor. At any rate, AuCoin's performance is not particularly compelling. From time to time, it would be fun to root for the priest. Instead our only choice is to applaud the pornographer.
By Doug Wright. Directed by Louis Tyrrell. Starring Tom Ligon, George Kapetan, Elizabeth Dimon, Kelly AuCoin, William Metzo, and Coleen McDermott. Through March 7. Florida Stage, Plaza Del Mar, 262 S Ocean Blvd, Manalapan; 800-514-3837 or 561-585-3404.