Victoria Clark is in the current parlance a multi-hyphenate talent; she is a recipient of the coveted Tony Award for her work on the Broadway stage. Her current gig as director of the excellent Conor McPherson adaptation of Strindberg’s Dance of Deathadds lustre to a lustrous resume.
If you have had the privilege of seeing the play at Classic Stage Company (through March 10th), you will definitely want to hear the actress, singer, teacher and director in conversation with John Doyle on March 5th at 7 o’clock.
Doyle is CSC’s Artistic Director, and a Tony winning director himself. He is presenting the second installment of the Classic Conversation series, for March 5th featuring Clark.
Ted Sperling, who received a Tony when he worked with Clark on Light in the Piazza, will join to accompany Clark on the piano for the musical portion of the evening.
Sometimes it’s the setting, the social fabric of a place, that reflects the context of a work. August Strindberg set his plays in his native Sweden; these settings are often remote and austere; Strindberg’s characters are motivated by a psychology both familiar and alienating, sometimes even chilling.
Women scared Strindberg, it would seem. By today’s standards, his psychological viewpoint is positively regressive. His Julie is neurotic and a hysteric. Her wildness drove her fiancé away.
Yaël Farber roughly covers the same plot points. Her titular Mies Julie (Elise Kibler) is a wild child, distraught and adrift since her intended left her. She turns to John (James Udom), a servant in her father’s house for the strength she needs to exorcise her demons. Their love is fierce and cruel, and motivated by a dynamic different, but not alien to Strindberg’s.
Farber has placed Strindberg’s Miss Julie in a new context by setting her adaptation in the veldt. South Africa and its racial divide make a poignant if stereotyped backdrop for Farber’s Mies Julie.
The story is sensationalized, with lurid brutality and explicit sex. To be honest, I do not recall the Strindberg original well enough to judge, but there is nothing subtle in this heavy handed adaptation.
As I do recall, in the Strindberg version, Christine represented another betrayal; she was Jean’s girlfriend whom he abandoned for Julie. Here, Christine (Patrice Johnson Chevannes) is John’s mother who raised Mies Julie. Farber, and her director, Shariffa Ali, have also added an element of the supernatural in the figure of Ukhokho (Vinie Burrows), an ancestor whom only Christine sees.
Mies Julie, directed by Shariffa Ali plays in repertory with Conor McPherson’s adaptation of Strindberg’s Dance of Death, directed by Victoria Clark at Classic Stage Company through March 10th.
Love may be the antidote to death, or it may be its side dish.
For Edgar (Richard Topol) and Alice (Cassie Beck) in Conor McPherson’s adaptation of Strindberg’s Dance of Death, directed by Victoria Clark, it is the cruellest of emotions.
The couple, on the verge of their 25th anniversary, have never stopped torturing each other.
Alice invites her hapless, if not so innocent, cousin Kurt (Christopher Innvar) to visit in their remote island home. He is readily drawn into their lies and deceptions, deceits and insinuatons.
Watching Alice and Edgar in their exquisite mutual torment is like the proverbial trainwreck: you are horrified yet cannot look away.
The acting of all three principles is so seamless that the escalations of the hurt are palpable, subtly-defined and well-choreographed. We are enthralled by the fiendish wiles and messy tangle in Edgar and Alice’s marriage, and riveted by Kurt’s engagement with them. Victoria Clark directs with a deft, light hand that allows us to see under the surface.
Strindberg is seldom on stage. If you have not seen him, let Conor McPherson introduce you to him. Dance of Death is a must-see production.
Conor McPherson’s adaptation of Strindberg’s Dance of Death, durected by Victoria Clark, plays in repertory with Yael Farber’s Mies Julie, directed by Shariffa Ali at Classic Stage Company through March 10th.
In the upcoming Classic Stage Company double-bill in repertory, Conor McPerson and Yaël Farber rework two Strindberg pieces, Dance of Death and Miss Julie. This Strindberg celebration runs from January 15th through March 10th at the CSC’s theatre on East 13th Street.
Farber’s Mies Julie resets the play to the Karoo of South Africa, adding a new dimension to the social conflicts in the original. Mies Julie is directed by Shariffa Ali who brings enlightened and empassioned humanitarian activism into the play’s broader themes.
Victoria Clark is helming the production of McPherson’s interpretation of Dance of Death. You surely know her as a Broadway musical star, who won a Tony for her lead in The Light In the Piazza, and was a nominee for four of her other outings. Lately, Ms. Clark has been directing musicals and operas around the country. She brings her sense of the lyricism in words to Strindberg’s brutal vision of a marriage in decline.
** (Strindberg’s Miss Julie, for instance, was last seen at the Roundabout in 2007 with Jonny Miller and Sienna Miller, although an off-Broadway production of his lesser-known The Pelican was produced in 2016.)