II" BY AUGUST STRINDBERG
adapted by Edgar Chisholm, directed by Robert Greer
March 12 to April 2, 2016 - Gene Frankel Theatre, 24 Bond Street
Presented by August Strindberg Repertory Theatre in association
with Theater Resources Unlimited.
leading character, an alienated writer, was re-envisioned
as an author modeled on Amiri Baraka. Jarde Jacobs. Photo
by Jonathan Slaff.
This was the second installment of the three-part work in which
Strindberg first introduced true surrealism to the stage in the
theatrical representation of the dream. Strindberg's tale of life
in decadent artists' circles of 1890s Sweden will be brought to
life in 1960s California and its leading character, an alienated
writer, was re-envisioned as an author modeled on Amiri Baraka.
The production opened with a six-and-a-half minute condensation
of "To Damascus, Part 1,"
which had been presented by August Strindberg Rep in 2014.
The trilogy has been described as "Strindberg's most complex
plays" and as "his greatest plays" due to their
synthesis of a wide variety of myths, symbols and ideas with a
profound spiritual analysis in a new dramatic form. They are Strindberg's
most overtly autobiographical dramatic works and deal very directly
with his attitude toward religion. The three plays foreshadowed
styles to be seen later in Strindberg's "The Dream Play"
(1902) and "The Ghost Sonata" (1907). They trace the
spiritual downfall and redemption of The Stranger, an author in
In Part 1, The Stranger persuades a high-class character named
The Lady to leave her husband, a Doctor. The pair elope but their
dreams of freedom are shattered by feelings of guilt. Penniless,
they return to the Lady's parental home, where her pious mother
persuades The Lady to read The Stranger's book, which he had forbidden
her to do. Having "eaten of the tree of knowledge,"
The Lady drives her husband away. A broken man, he recuperates
in an asylum in a convent, where he is cursed by his confessor.
He returns to The Mother, who tells him he is on the Road to Damascus
and that he, like Saul, must seek forgiveness. In 2014, August
Strindberg Rep began its comprehensive adaptation of the Trilogy,
updating Part 1 to Harlem, 1962 and envisioning The Stranger as
a black radical writer in the image of Amiri Baraka (author of
Part 2 has The Stranger and The Lady living together unhappily.
She is pregnant and makes his life miserable by intercepting his
mail and interfering with his scientific work. Although his is
primarily a literary man, he has been dabbling in alchemy and
electricity (as Strindberg actually did). He hopes to turn lead
into gold, not to enrich himself but to redress economic inequality
by making gold worthless. Surprisingly, his experiments are successful
and he is honored at a grand banquet, which turns into a farcical
nightmare. He is exposed as a charlatan and stuck with the bill,
which he cannot pay. The Banquet, in all its fantastic oddity,
dominates the play. It is one of the most suggestive treatments
ever of the ancient theme of the fickleness of fortune. Subsequently,
The Stranger abandons The Lady when her daughter is born, but
is persuaded to return to them by The Beggar, a sort of alter-ego
he had met in Part 1, and the Confessor persuades him to return
to the monastery.
August Strindberg Rep set Part 2 in mid-sixties California, with
its counterculture in full bloom. The production had 60's-style
period music composed by Andy Evan Cohen. Strindberg drank deeply
of the exotic lifestyle of 1890's Paris and Berlin, with its free
love and feminism, and this is key to the logic of this adaptation.
To August Strindberg Rep, the lifestyle of California in the 60's
has remarkable parallels to the societies of fin de siecle European
capitols, with their avant-garde cultural movements and anarcho-syndicalist
ideologies. As in Part 1, the character of The Stranger was re-imagined
as a radical black writer and the class difference between The
Stranger and The Lady is expressed in their racial difference.
Strindberg envisioned The Stranger's alchemy as an act of political
rebellion. Transporting this to modern times, it might be perfectly
reasonable for a revolutionary black writer in the 60's to try
to turn lead into gold to bring down the world economy, considering
the distrust of the period toward the capitalist banking system,
corporate culture and Military-Industrial Complex.
Among its modernist influences, the trilogy is an early example
of the Stationendrama (drama of stations), common to
German Expressionist plays, in which a central character passes
through a series of stations, usually in a quest for redemption.
On his path, he meets characters who may be versions of his own
personality or the same character reappearing in different guises.
Most disturbing of these in "To Damascus" is The Lady,
who in Part 1 contains the redemptive features of Goethe's ‘eternal
woman’ but in Part 2 transforms into an evil persecutor.
Jarde Jacobs played The Stranger and Ivette Dumeng played The
Lady. The cast also included Diana Lynne Drew, Camilla Goeritz,
Tomike Lee, Al Foote III, Andres Pina and Randall Rodriguez. Set
design was by You-Shin Chen. Costume design was by Zulema Griffin.
Lighting design was by Leslie Smith. Sound and video design were
by Andy Evan Cohen and Janet Bentley. Prop design was by Lytza
Colon. Dramaturg was Janet Bentley. Producer was Jessa-Raye Court.
Edgar Chisholm (adaptor) had translated August Strindberg Rep's
2014 production of "Miss Julie,"
which transported the play into the American Antebellum South.