The Oakland Tribune, March 11, 1998
Chad Jones

...Under Dooley's direction, Les Liaisons Dangereuses is a bold but not entirely successful season opener. Christopher Hampton's stage adaptation of the epistolary novel by Choderlos de Laclos was also the basis for the Academy Award-winning 1998 movie Dangerous Liaisons, starring Glenn Close and Michelle Pfeiffer. Dooley has his work cut out for him: He must make audiences forget the film long enough to concentrate on the play.

Dooley's approach is a smart one. He doesn't go for realism here, but rather a sustained tone of high melodrama borrowed from the pulpy black-and-white films of the 1930s. His actors deliver their lines with breathy emphasis, full of artifice and guile. Actors don't speak to each other so much as stare blankly into some distant void while delivering their lines.

This approach almost works. Hampton's brittle, brutal revenge play is all about game playing among late 18th-century French aristocrats. Bored and with little to do, they become masters of 'practiced detachment' and 'virtuosos of deceit'. The primary players are the Marquise de Merteuil (Mary Eaton Fairfield) and the Vicomte de Valmont (Dominic Riley), two former lovers who live to best one another on a playing field of scheming and philandering.

Their victims are the impressionable young Chevalier Danceny (Feodor Chin), the virginal Cécile de Volanges (Karen Goldstein, who delivers a bizarre Gracie Fields-like comic turn that seems terribly out of place here) and the pious Madame de Tourvel (Anne-Liese Juge).

The cast seems to relish delivering Hampton's delicious dialogue in lusty melodramatic tones. When Fairfield says, 'Those most worthy of love can never be made happy by it,' you believe her. But as the play approaches its climax, when true love and actual emotion interfere with the heartless game playing, the melodrama does not subside enough to let reality in. As a result, the audience is left in a void of emotion. The play's final moments should pack a wallop, but they don't.

Still, this is a handsome production. Michael Frassinelli's simple set features a nifty bed that comes sliding out of the wall, and Christine Cilley's vibrant costumes are a sassy blend of 18th century pomp and sleek 1990s fashion. The frequent set changes are handled efficiently and smoothed over by the live musical accompaniment of pianist Willow Williamson and cellist Danielle DeGruttola.

East Bay Express, April 10, 1998
Christopher Hawthorne

The Players break in a new home, a comfy, spacious theatre behind the Best Printing shop on Adeline Street in Berkeley, with Christopher Hampton's story of romantic double-crossing and lovelorn gamesmanship. Maybe it was the new surroundings, but on opening night the company was slow to warm to the material, and director Patrick Dooley's choreographed set changes needed speeding up. But by the second half his cast had found its collective voice, and did justice to the funny, linguistically gymnastic script. In the end, though it can't compete with the troupe's most memorable shows, it's a solid, rewarding production. Mary Eaton Fairfield, as the conniving Marquise de Merteuil, and Karen Goldstein, playing a whining, gullible marriage prospect, stand out from the rest of the cast; Michael Frassinelli's remarkable set, which includes a bed that slides downstage like a greased file-cabinet drawer, helps keep the frantic action watchably contained.

SF Bay Guardian, May 18, 1998

The Vicomte de Valmont and the Marquise de Merteuil plan a pair of seductions; the seductions succeed; the seducers and seducees lose. There are some faux pas in this production: the women wear what look like pajama bottoms under their long dresses, making it seem like they're at an Enlightenment slumber party. But the Shotgun Players don't dodge the play's real challenge, which is to bring out the ambiguities in the characters' motives, so that we are never entirely sure what to believe. Making this possible are Dominic Riley as a Valmont who, disconcertingly, is more convincing as a lover than as a libertine, and Mary Eaton Fairfield's Merteuil, who really is, as she says, quick enough to improvise. Karen Goldstein is icing on the cake as one of Valmont's victims. The original musical score ranges from jazz to classical and provides an appropriately disconcerting backdrop.