NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Thursday, October 29, 2015, 10:00 PM
From left: Gabriel Ebert, Matt Ryan and Keira Knightley in Thérèse Raquin
There’s enough real water in “Thérèse Raquin” to float a row boat, but not a drop of sexual tension. Without high heat and funky musk, this wannabe erotic thriller starring Keira Knightley is bloodless and all wet.
Too bad. It makes for a dispiriting Broadway debut for Knightley, an Oscar nominee for “Pride & Prejudice” and “The Imitation Game.” She’s known for classics, so Emile Zola’s 148-year old novel is familiar turf. And she’s recognized for injecting roles with emotional intensity, but she never finds traction in this choppy adaptation. Helen Edmundson’s script is filled with microscenes that start and stop without impact.
The action unfolds in 1868 France and traces the deadly aftermath of repressed Thérèse’s lust and infidelity. Knightley says relatively little in the play’s first half. She’s bossed around by her sickly cousin Camille (“Matilda” Tony winner Gabriel Ebert), who she marries, and his domineering mother (Judith Light, whose recent run of great Broadway material ends here). Enter Laurent (Matt Ryan, of TV’s “Constantine”), Camille’s handsome friend.
Knightley stares wide-eyed at Laurent as if she’s never seen a man besides Camille before. No matter that Thérèse lives and works in a shop in Paris, a city known to be inhabited by more than a few men. But she gawks like a vampire who hasn’t been fed in months. Later she briefly pleasures herself with a straight-back chair.
Thérèse eventually trades up to the real thing during clandestine trysts with Laurent that come off as mechanical, not mind-bending or soul-stirring. Regardless, Camille’s days are numbered — and the illicit lovers will be haunted by what they do to be alone together.
Director Evan Cabnet relies on disembodied voices and eerie sounds effects to show the pair’s haunted minds. Just in time for Halloween, “Thérèse Raquin” and the A-list actress playing her have found themselves stranded in a corny spookhouse. Scary.