Marie Antoinette's life wasn't an easy one. The queen of France was pretty much hated by the French people, had a meddling mother, was often blamed for the French Revolution, and met up with the guillotine in 1793.

Heck, who'd blame her if she became embroiled in a love triangle?

It's a scenario that playwright Joel Gross has imagined in "Marie Antoinette: The Color of Flesh," which Beowulf Alley Theatre opens Friday.

On the other tips of that triangle are Elisabeth Vigée le Brun, a French artist who was considered Antoinette's official portraitist, and a completely-fabricated-by-Gross cad named Alexis.

While two of the three characters in the story are fact-based, as is the French Revolution that rages on behind them, don't go thinking you'll be watching history.

"The playwright doesn't pretend (the story) is factual," said Teresa Simone, who is directing the production.

"He's allowed his imagination to be caught by" Antoinette.

So, it isn't true. But by all accounts, the play is certainly captivating.

"You are quickly caught up in the lives of the three as they explore their emotions while affecting and being affected by the momentous events of the day," the New York Times wrote when the play premiered in 2003.

"Gross strips away the facade, and, with every literary brushstroke, also draws a correlation between the social-political happenings of then and now," said the Portland (Maine) Press Herald of a production earlier this year.

And it captivated Simone, whose forte is physical theater (she's a graduate of the Dell'Arte International School for Physical Theater), not drama with rich period costumes and a sweeping historical backdrop.

"When I was asked to direct a costume drama, I though they were asking the wrong girl," Simon recalls.

Then she read the play.

"I really liked the language," she says. "I thought the wordplay was witty. After it sat with me for a while, I realized the play had a lot of depth to it."

Simone was also taken by the complexity of the characters.

"It's a play that comes off as a simple love triangle, but when it sinks in, the characters are very interesting," she says.

"None of them are black and white. They are social climbers using Marie Antoinette, but by the end of the play, they truly love her."

She also is seduced by the playwright's mixture of fact and fiction, and the reimagining of Marie Antoinette.

"I like that we are free to play with who she was, what does she really want, what was her life like," Simone says. "Imagining her without trying to make it true makes for a much better story."

If you go

• What: Beowulf Alley Theatre's production of "Marie Antoinette: The Color of Flesh."

• By: Joel Gross.

• Director: Teresa Simone.

• When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 16.

• Where: Beowulf Alley Theatre, 11 S. Sixth Ave.

• Cost: $20, with discounts available. Student price is $8.

• Reservations, information: 882-0555.

• Running time: About two hours, with one intermission.

• Cast: Rachel Santay, Hilary Metzger, Adrian Gomez.

• Et cetera: Not suitable for 16 and younger.