Summer 2018 DETAIL
Strindberg Rep Produces Two Plays at the Dream Up Festival
From August 27 to September 4, August Strindberg Rep will present Strindberg's "Creditors," in a new translation by Robert Greer, at the Dream Up Festival at Theatre for the New City. This masterpiece from Strindberg's naturalist period is rarely excelled in its unity of construction, dramatic tension and acute psychological analysis, but it is far less performed and anthologized than "The Father" or "Miss Julie." During an afternoon in a lounge at a seaside resort, a revenge is played out as a credulous artist has his mind poisoned against his wife by her former husband.
The drama is set in a parlor and adjoining room of a seaside resort. Adolph, a painter-turned-sculptor, is falling under the spell of Gustav, an ill-natured older man whom he has just met. In the guise of friendly male conversation Gustav, Iago-like, makes Adolph dissect his love for his new wife Tekla. She is a novelist whose star is rising while Adolph's is falling. We learn that Tekla is Gustav's former wife and she has written a roman a clef about him, characterizing him as an idiot. In an act of revenge, the older man is manipulating the artist to believe that his wife has selfishly robbed him of his creative strength in an act of erotic vampirism. The men agree that Adolph will hide in the antechamber and eavesdrop while Gustav engages Tekla to demonstrate "how to handle a woman." Instead of confronting her, Gustav charms her into a farewell tryst. When Tekla awakens to the plot, it is too late--Adolph, listening at the keyhole, succumbs to an offstage attack of epilepsy. The play whirls with mind and power games and is a brilliant statement on the kinetics of conjugal dependency. But it is written in a tottering rhetoric which has led to a swollen and lofty tone in translations to-date. This has been a barrier to its popularity, and Robert Greer's translation aims to render the play into a more contemporary voice for the benefit of sophisticated New York audiences.
The play's Swedish title is "Fordringsagare," meaning claimant or pretendant. The translation of the title as "Creditors" is meant to indicate Tekla's supposed debt to each of her husbands while posing as a person of original gifts.
The play was written in 1889 a mere 72 hours after "Miss Julie" was banned by the censors in Copenhagen. Strindberg had a lease on a theater and suddenly no play to put in it, so he wrote a play for the cast he had assembled for "Miss Julie." "Creditors" approached the same kind of passions, but soft-pedaled the sexuality. Nevertheless, the play's erotic themes are perceptible through a variety of clues. Another Swedish word for debt, "skyld," also means sin; moreover, the notion of sexual debt tacitly permeates the entire dramatic situation. In late 19th century Sweden, it was customary for women to marry men 15-20 years older and it is assumed that Gustav, her first husband, has educated Tekla both sexually and intellectually. She, in turn, has similarly educated Adolph, her second husband, who happens to be her age. When Tekla had her affair with Adolph, whom she ultimately married, Gustav was humiliated. His students sniggered about the affair for seven years. The idea of the "ridiculous" (i.e. cuckolded) idiot character in Tekla's book actually was suggested by Adolph (who, ironically, meant no harm at the time). So when Gustav punishes Tekla and Adolph for ruining his reputation, he is bitterly redressing a psychic debt that is also sexual.
In Sweden, criticism generally holds "Creditors" to be a better play than "Miss Julie." It is performed in major productions year after year because it is such a fine vehicle for three stars.
Robert Greer (translator, director) is founding director of August Strindberg Rep, for which he has directed eleven Strindberg plays to-date. He has staged English-language premières of numerous contemporary Scandinavian playwrights, including Sweden's Marianne Goldman, Helena Sigander, Cecilia Sidenbladh, Oravsky and Larsen, Hans Hederberg, Margareta Garpe and Kristina Lugn; Denmark's Stig Dalager and Norway's Edvard Rønning. He has also directed classics by Victoria Benedictsson, Laura Kieler, Anne Charlotte Leffler and Amalie Skram. His productions have been presented at the Strindberg Museum and Strindberg Festival, Stockholm; Edinburgh and NY Fringe Festivals, Barnard College, Columbia University, Rutgers, UCLA; Miranda, Pulse and Theater Row Theaters, La MaMa, Manhattan Theatre Source, Tribeca Lab, Synchronicity, TSI, BargeMusic; and The Duplex in LA. He has also directed plays by Mario Fratti, Sartre and Corneille here in New York. He is a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, Actors' Equity; the Strindberg Society, the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study and Swedish Translators in North America.
The actors are Natalie Menna as Tekla, David Kubicka as Adolph and Robert Homeyer as Gustav. Lighting design is by Gilbert Pearto. Costume design is by Janet Mervin.
Box office: www.dreamupfestival.org
Running Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes
It was inevitable, perhaps, that our post-truth politics would seep into 21st century absurdist theater. One sunny example is "Occasionally Nothing" by Natalie Menna, which takes us to a dismal time-to-come when something can become a profound, obvious nothing. Life becomes the time in between the sometimes which sometimes happen. The piece won awards in Planet Connections Festivity for developmental stagings, with critics cheering the playwright for her mastery of Theater of the Absurd. Theater for the New City's Dream Up festival will present the work September 8 to 16. Ivette Dumeng directs.
The short two-act play is set in the foreseeable future, when the world is nearing its end. An older man, a young man and a woman, all British expats, are sheltering from nearby bomb blasts in a bleak room. They cope by taunting each other with warped games of verbal wordplay and by blurring each other's realities while losing touch with their own. The older man is the uncle of the younger man, who is a punk rocker. The woman, wife of the older man, is a former Rockette of Sephardic Jewish heritage. The trio's ordeal is meant to offer a bleak glimpse at life in the wake of a dystopian presidency, where wars will abound, words will have lost their meaning and people will have lost their way.
Playwright Natalie Menna is also author of "Committed" which was performed last season at the 14th Street Y, and a resident playwright of August Strindberg Rep, for whom she adapted "Journey in Light and Shadow" by Stig Dalager for a 2017 production at Gene Frankel Theatre. She has received awards at Planet Connections Festivity for her plays "Occasionally Nothing," "Committed," and "Zen A.M." Her "Roberta!" was presented twice at United Solo Festival. Her other plays include "I-POD" and "Hiroshi-Me," which won awards in other festivals. "Roberta!," "I-POD" and "Zen A.M." were published by indietheaternow.com. She is also an actor and appears in the 2018 Dream Up Festival August 27 to September 4 in August Strindberg's 'Creditors,' newly translated by Robert Greer.
Director Ivette Dumeng is Producing Artistic Director and founding member of Nylon Fusion Theatre Company (www.nylonfusion.org) and a member of The Actors Studio Playwrights Directors Unit and League of Professional Theatre Women. Among her directing credits are "Elephant Girl" by John Patrick Shanley and four plays by Don Nigro: "Marina," "Mata Hari," "Jack in the Box," and "Front Porch." She is also a prolific actor. (SAG/AFTRA)
Lighting design is by Gilbert 'Lucky' Pearto. Costume design is by Janet Mervin. Sound design is by Andy Evan Cohen.
The ninth annual Dream Up Festival ( www.dreamupfestival.org ) is being presented by Theater for the New City from August 26 to September 16. An ultimate new work festival, it is dedicated to the joy of discovering new authors and edgy, innovative performances. Audiences savor the excitement, awe, passion, challenge and intrigue of new plays from around the country and around the world.
Box office: www.dreamupfestival.org
Running Time: 1 hour and 10 minutes