It's been four years since Laura Linney showed up on a Broadway stage, since her memorable turn in Donald Marguiles's Sight Unseen in 2004. So when the Roundabout announced that Linney would be starring in a revival of Christopher Hampton's Les Liaisons Dangereuses as the Marquise de Merteuil, we got awfully excited; after all, she's a great actress who typically plays flawed heroines but is taking on one of theater's great scheming villainesses. We didn't give that much thought to Linney's supporting cast (other than a nod to Mamie Gummer as the ingenue), assuming that the reviews would declare the production a showcase for a single incandescent star, with everyone else onstage mostly filling up space between one fantastic performer's unforgettable moments.
Little did we know that Ben Brantley would write that exact review, except not about Laura Linney.
According to Brantley, Ben Daniels, the British actor who plays Valmont, is the star of the show — "sensational," Brantley says — and Linney is "uncomfortably cast." Given that she's Laura Linney, we'd have to think that she still has a great shot at a Tony nomination, even in crowded company, but the review makes Daniels a player in the even-more-crowded Best Actor in a Play race. After all, Ben Brantley compares him favorably to other famous Valmonts — Alan Rickman, who played the role on Broadway eleven years ago, and John Malkovich and Colin Firth in film adaptations.
Sadly, Brantley doesn't compare Daniels's performance to the definitive Valmont, Ryan Phillippe in Cruel Intentions. Does Daniels offer a line reading to compare with Phillippe's deathless delivery of "Are you a lesbian? I just picked up on a little bit of that lesbian vibe"? We'll never know. Thanks a lot, Brantley.