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TO FEBRUARY 14
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With clown-white skin flaking, lips smeared a warm red, and mechanical gesturing, Stephen Angus and Lisa Lias move through director Zeljko Djukic’s production of Heiner Muller’s Quartet like a pair of clockwork vampires. This adaptation of the 18th-century novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses is driven by revenge and an eternity of boredom, as the decadent and decaying aristocrats Valmont (Angus) and Merteuile (Lias) play out their rapes and seductions over a mirrored floor; their internal and outward corruption first doubles, then triples (look above the duo to see their elongated shadows whirl and hunt behind them). Really a series of monologues, Muller’s play (which was written before Christopher Hampton’s more popular stage and film versions) demands fluidity: His characters bleed into one another like widening sores. Angus and Lias, both excellent from beginning to end, do not merely flip-flop roles, they also become the young girl and devout woman they ravage and ultimately devour. That this wicked effect succeeds, that Muller’s quartet is convincingly played by only two people, is especially startling considering how the actors achieve these transformations with simple shifts of posture and vocal pitch. Everything about this Open Theatre/T.U.T.A. production—the heightened acting style, Natasa Djukic’s shredded, gauzy costumes, Arpad Sayko’s goth-rock sound design—smacks of the Grand Guignol theatrical tradition that delighted in glorifying the grotesque. A fascinating abomination, Quartet, which clocks in at just over an hour, is also riveting theater. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, with a matinee at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 1 at the District of Columbia Arts Center, 2438 18th St. NW. $14. (202) 462-7833. (Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa)