During a period of dynamic cultural change during the 19th century, Willimon says, Becque “drew from theatrical tropes familiar to French audiences—the farce, the parlor play, the comedy of manners—and turned them on their heads. In La Parisienne, he eschewed romance for obsession, he explored sex in terms of power rather than pure scintillation, and he tossed aside cartoonish archetypes and populated the play with three-dimensional souls. He did all this with biting wit and comedy…”
Willimon says his “goal was to channel Becque, not to imitate or translate him.” To write a subversive, engaging piece about the art of political maneuvering, inspired by Becque.
Willimon’s The Parisian Woman is a modern story of passion and political intrigue, set in the Capital Hill district of Washington, D.C. At turns both comic and dramatic, the play revolves around an unorthodox power couple, working together to climb the political ladder, in a town where “powerful friends are the only kind worth having.”
Chloe is a social über-operator armed with charm, wit and sensuality. Her husband Tom is a hard-working corporate lawyer determined to become the next Attorney General. Chloe does everything in her power to help her husband, including reaching out to DC power-broker Jeanette Simpson and others. But when unexpected complications threaten to derail Tom’s nomination, Chloe is driven to take drastic measures.
The Parisian Woman explores the nature of personal and political power, the volatility of passion, and the elusive nature of truth and loyalty. With Chloe, Willimon has written a formidable female protagonist, who eschews the everyday rules of polite society unapologetically and pragmatically, in favor of getting what she wants.
Director Pam MacKinnon says: “In The Parisian Woman battles are won and lost in conversation. It is a play of quick-witted people.” Stylistically, it is a smart, scathing play in which words and truth are wielded as weapons.