Somewhat Recommended ** It is not very often that I am somewhat disappointed in Strawdog Theatre Company’s work. In fact, tonight was probably the first time in many years that I found one of their productions to be a bit hard to follow. Patrick Marber’s “After Miss Julie” is a modern re-imaging of August Strindberg’s classic. It is now set in 1945, after World War II and on this night, the Labour Party of England has “ousted” the Conservative Party and Winston Churchill. Thus, this three character, eighty-five minute play takes us into a class difference and the relationship between servant and “master” during a time of uncertainty.
On this night, we first meet Christine (Anita Deely) as she prepares a meal for her fiancée, John (John Henry Roberts) as he comes home from the positive night. They are the servants in this play and their master of the house controls them in every way. When the bell rings on the house phone, they jump to attention. For meals, shoes shined, clothes pressed and other duties they are expected to handle. On this night, they are visited by their employer’s daughter, Miss Julie (the delicate Maggie Scranton) who as we learn has pined for adulthood through John, knowing that he watches her from every angle. On this particular night, as John drinks more than usual (as does Miss Julie), something takes place between them. Christine has gone to bed. One can figure this out pretty fast and rather than fill you in to the details, let us say that the lives of these three people change dearly on this night of all nights.
This is a play filled with moments. Directed smoothly by Elly Green, on a magnificent set by Mike Mroch, that truly has the feeling of being in a large upstairs servants flat, the only flaw is that the beams that are in the building do block some of the visual sights. There are rooms off to the side as well, and although we know where they lead, there are few quiet times where silence is not golden, but rather eerie as we are unaware of what is taking place. This is soon to be a lost space as this company will be moving to new quarters. Over the years, they have used the space to its best advantage, but to be honest, even though this one works, it is not up to their usual standards of great sight lines as well as sound. Part of the sound problem may be the set, the other is the thick accents.
The costumes by Brittany Dee Bodley are wonderful and Jamie Karas has assembled some unbelievable props. Claire Chrzan’s lighting is very effective, but what truly makes us watch every second of the play is the chemistry between the actors. While I found myself straining to hear and understand Robert’s dialect, I felt the chemistry that was designed to make us feel that this was indeed a special time for him and Miss Julie. Watching the faces of Roberts and Scrantom made me feel as if they were not acting at all, but feeling the desire that begins as an adventure and ends in a most unusual way. There is still magic in this play. The questions asked are questions that we might be thinking about ourselves. As a country changes, does everything have to change with the leaders? If we are wealthy, do we always have “station” over those who work for us? Or, can those who are not of “station” work themselves up the ladder to enjoy the “station” that they have always watched from afar? Part of me says that this is what Marber is driving at. Part of me says, he didn’t finish the story to my satisfaction. Judge for yourself. I would be interested in what you feel.
Thursdays 8 p.m.
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 8 p.m.
Sundays 4 p.m.
Tickets are $28 each and can be purchased by calling 1-866-811-4111 (Ovation Tix) or online at www.strawdog.org
Senior and student discounts are available and there will be a special Monday performance on August 31st at 8 p.m.
There is metered street parking and if there are no night games (this is Cubbie Territory), you can find some free spots. Public transportation is readily available as well.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “After Miss Julie”