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Dark Comedy Takes On Sex, Morality And Art

John Lamb

A dark comedy, "Quills" imagines the final days of French aristocrat and writer Marquis de Sade “somewhat fictionalized to my own nefarious purposes,” said playwright Doug Wright.

“It is a play that tackles provocative literature and sexuality and a host of other taboo topics in, I hope, a way that audiences find fiendishly entertaining.”

The marquis was confined to an asylum in Charenton, France.

“History still hasn’t decided who exactly he was,” said Ted Gregory who plays the marquis. “He is an incredible, incredible writer. A lot of people think that he’s perhaps a genius — I guess history will determine that. I think he was probably ahead of his time. I think even arguably today, he’s still ahead of his time in terms of his thoughts on morality, his thoughts on art.”


Wright also wrote the screenplay for the 2000 movie. He said the “nature of the mediums” led to some changes for the film, including nuanced moments between characters and toned down violence.

Director Brooke Edwards said approaching the play’s heavy topics, like morality and censorship, through satire makes them more relatable.

“Where you tackle these huge issues like morality and death and sex and pornography, or any of that, to do it with comedy, to do it in that sort of tongue-in-cheek kind of way, it actually helps get the message across clearer because you’re more willing to listen to it because it’s not bogged down in this heavy emotion,” she said.

Wright also sees a relationship between art and censorship.

“The censor is always the artist’s greatest and most reliable muse,” he said. “I think they are engaged in a lovely tango, and always have been.”

"Quills," presented by Max & Louie Productions, opens July 31 at the JCC’s Wool Studio Theatre. Wright will be in St. Louis for a post-show "talk back" on Aug. 1 and 2. He will be joined by ACLU Executive Director Jeffrey Mittman on Aug. 1.

Related Event

Max and Louie Productions Presents Doug Wright's "Quills" 
7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays July 31-Aug. 17, 2014 
Wool Studio Theatre in the A&E Building at the JCC'sStaenberg Family Complex, 2 Millstone Campus Drive, St. Louis
For more information, call 314-795-8778 or visit maxandlouie.com.

Cityscape is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.

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