Credit: Chris Popio

Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée d’Éon de Beaumont lived a
revolutionary life in revolutionary times. He began his singular career
under Louis XV as both secretary to the Russian ambassador and undercover
spy. After a stint as a French dragoon, he became minister plenipotentiary
to the British court (while also covertly helping to plan an invasion of
England), a position he lost six months later due to insolent behavior.
When the king ordered him home, he refused, and after escaping multiple
attempts at kidnap and arrest, he published a volume of his diplomatic
correspondence, exposing state secrets and turning himself into a
celebrity. He spent a decade exiled in London until the playwright
Beaumarchais, working for the French government, gave him leave to return
home, but only if he professed to be a woman—a gender d’Éon publicly
adopted for the next 35 years.

Toronto playwright Mark Brownell’s frisky biodrama employs all manner of
anachronistic clowning to sprint through the highlights of d’Éon’s life.
It’s raucous fun, cheerfully sexed up in director Nicole Wiesner’s
salacious production, but largely devoid of connecting material that might
provide context and resonance. It seems Brownell crammed in so much
information and chicanery he barely paused to consider why any of it should
matter to contemporary audiences.

It’s an uncharacteristically unsophisticated play for Trap Door, but
Wiesner’s sophisticated staging—full of visual and sonic
dissonance—hypnotizes with 90 minutes of bracing imagery. As d’Éon, the
understated David Lovejoy is a block of noble stability in a world gone
haywire.   v