Theatre Lîla



Conceived and Directed by ANDREA ARDEN



American Theatre of Actors, 314 W. 54 St., NYC, June 3 – 25, 2005



Lighting Design MICHAEL A. REESE

Costume Design DEIDRE WEGNER

Video Production TONY KENNETTE



Kristen – Amy Clites

Jean – Quinn Mander

Julie – Bess Richardson

August Strindberg’s MISS JULIE is among the popular plays to revisit this season. As one of two productions running in repertory, Theatre Lîla has chosen to include JULIE as part of their inaugural season. Their adaptation is filtered through some modern trends and technologies, such as the ever-popular video confessional. Word for word, however, the language is pure Strindberg, and in keeping with the ugly aspects of this "classic" work.

The crux of the play, on the surface, is the unspeakable coupling of Julie and Jean on Midsummer’s Eve. Julie is a count’s daughter, and Jean is one of the servants. Such a pairing is deemed inappropriate by nobility and working class alike. Julie, having acted on desire, is immediately despondent and hopeless, convinced as she is by Jean that life as she knew it can never exist again, and that she must either flee or die to save her reputation. If one looks deeper, Strindberg’s MISS JULIE is an exceedingly misogynistic work that punishes the title character for the feminist ideas instilled in her by her mother. Rather than growing into a strong woman by virtue of having been taught everything a boy would learn, Julie comes to hate men, exploit the class system as it suits her, and fit the profile of a stereotypical hysterical woman.

The play is what it is, so the interest now lies in experiencing the adaptation. In this case, aside from intermittent film of either Julie or Jean talking about themselves, this JULIE has an overall design and feel suggestive of rats caged in a maze. This element seems intended to bring us into the mind of the sexually, socially and psychologically confused Julie, whose lapse of judgment brings the other two characters decisively into her chaotic world. It is as if we watch her inner demons come streaming out and running about the stage. It was almost as if the three characters were incessantly challenging one another to take it up a notch when all the audience wanted was for someone to take a breath and count to ten.

An inherent problem with both MISS JULIE and JULIE is that very early into the action it is rather clear that these are people we really do not want to spend time with. The audience waits for venom and tragedy to happen, not to be disappointed. This production delivers the ends, but the means are a bit shaky. The video confessions added nothing tangible, and the dialogue excerpted for those scenes is actually much more affecting as intended. Plus, this is not the type of work that lends itself to a multi-media sensibility. Yet, it must be noted that as introductory seasons go for new companies, Theatre Lîla has made considerable effort to stir the imagination, and for that I give them credit.

- Kessa De Santis -

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