-By Jamie Flowers
photo courtesy of Linda Johnson
Camille based on La Dame aux Camelias by Alexander Dumas is part of the Reclamation Repertory currently performed at the Quintessence Theatre. This play was original written in 1848 by Dumas, the illegitimate child of a Haitian slave mother and a famous French playwright father. Being taken from his mother at a young age and witnessing her distress caused Dumas to write his female characters as tragic and dramatic. He found himself caught up in the world of post-revolution French aristocracy trying to both earn the family name and make a name for himself. Moulin Rouge is based on the characters in Camille and much of this is based on his own life. Dumas had a now infamous love affair with the beautiful Marie Duplessis, who is the inspiration for Camille.
The story takes place amongst the glitz and glamour of 1800’s Paris, where much like today a plague hangs over the world. While Camille is afflicted by consumption, she fortunately does not spread it to any of her companions. The costumes by Anna Sorrentino are absolutely beautiful and bring the decadent and bohemian flair to the characters. It was this time period that gave a name to the bourgeois and to what we call today “bougie.” Camille is not all glitz and glamour though, it is drama and internal conflict that give life to this tragedy. With each gasp and cough that the Camille takes, the audience can feel her heartbreak.
Many of the same ensemble that are in Pearl Clerge’s Flyin West are also in Camille (which makes sense since they are playing simultaneously at the Quintessence Theater). It was truly a delight to see the fantastic cast take on such different and unique roles during Camille. Actors that are in both productions include: Phillip Brown as Duval, Zuhairah “Z” McGill as Prudence, Maya Smoot as Nichette, Deana S. Wright as Olimpe, Dax Richardson as Armand and Billie Wyatt as Camille. Philadelphia native, Kahlil A. Wyatt plays the jovial Gustave, Julia Sims plays the beautiful and naïve Nanine and Liam Mulshine is magical as Gaston. Lee Thomas Cortopassi, who is also Philadelphia based is the villain we all love to hate, the diabolical Count de Varville. Each of these actors on their own would be worth the trip to Mount Airy to see these plays, and while you’re there let them take you halfway around the world to Paris, France.
Camille is a classic that was been applauded for showing the world the underbelly of Paris during this time period. By combining history and a beautiful story, this production brings passion, sacrifice and raw emotion to the audience. While I will always love a good happy ending, I find it just as beautiful, sometimes more beautiful, to have an ending where true love never dies. The characters in this play have inspired countless other stage productions, ballets, novels, and films. It is a classic that should not be missed.
Camille has been extended through July 3, 2022, with tickets available at www.quintessencetheatre.org.