Strauss-Kahn drama hits the French stage
The calamitous moments inside the New York hotel that cost Dominique Strauss-Kahn his career, his dignity and possibly even his wife have now been turned into theater.
Some say bad theater.
It's been over 18 months since the former International Monetary Fund chief faced sexual assault charges brought by New York hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo. Those charges have since been dropped. Now a play in Paris titled "Suite 2806" - the number of Strauss-Kahn's Sofitel hotel room - asks, "What might have happened?"
But a year and a half is a long time. What was once a salacious story that provoked fascination on both sides of the Atlantic with its mix of sex, money and power has somehow ended up as a drama that's dull as dishwater.
The play - panned by critics - has been struggling to fill seats since its premiere last month despite substantial press coverage. That begs the question: Is the French public finally losing its appetite for tabloid tales about the man known here as DSK?
"We've read about this DSK thing so much, what else can be said that's new? It was boring," said theater-goer Alexey Loginov, 22, who admitted to falling asleep during the play.
"The sordid story remains sordid," said Eric Dimicoli, 42, another viewer.
Set in a reconstructed Sofitel room with a signature gold mustard decor, the play, according to director Philippe Hersen, is a 60-minute "study of morality, sexual addiction, and power with money," between a DSK-type character named Daniel Weissberg and a black housekeeper named Evangeline.
The actors' resemblance to their respective characters is compelling. Eric Debrosse, as Strauss-Kahn, got immediate applause for his white bleached hair, Quasimodo-esque back and pot-belly - apparently thanks to a strict junk food diet that helped him gain over 13 pounds.
But the play's lackluster repartee and endless facile moralizing - highlighted by lines like "It's in the nature of things: Men dominate women" and "Prostitution is the essence of a woman" - can disappoint viewers.
Perhaps its most frustrating aspect is that - probably for legal reasons - the play does not take sides. The house maid as well as the DSK-character come across as manipulative, and it's not clear whom to believe.
In reality, the criminal case brought by Guinean-born housekeeper Diallo was dropped after prosecutors said they couldn't trust her. Among their concerns: She was inconsistent about her actions right after leaving his suite, and she told a compelling but false story of having been raped previously.
In truth, no one apart from the two parties concerned will ever really know what exactly happened in that now-infamous suite 2806.
After seemingly endless speculation, many in France, not the least Strauss-Kahn and his now-estranged wife, journalist Anne Sinclair, just want to move on.
Strauss-Kahn will find out on Wednesday if his demand to have charges of aggravated pimping in a case in France thrown out. If he succeeds, this and a secret civil settlement last week between himself and Diallo that closed the American case may draw some sort of symbolic line under Strauss-Kahn's woes.
In a sign that others are moving on, even a proposed film with French box-office golden boy Gerard Depardieu in the leading role was cancelled after French producers got cold feet.
Meanwhile, Strauss-Kahn is making cautious attempts to rehabilitate his professional reputation. He's now giving speeches at international conferences and has set up a consulting company in Paris.
But the director of the play sees another potential option for the man nicknamed "the great seducer."
"Maybe he'll end up being an actor," said Hersen.
"Suite 2806" runs in the Daunou Theater in Paris until Jan. 19.
Thomas Adamson can be followed at http://Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP