Storm" by August Strindberg
Adapted and directed by Robert Greer
October 3 to 30, 2015 - Gene Frankel Theatre, 24 Bond Street
Presented by August Strindberg Repertory Theatre in association
with Theater Resources Unlimited.
Presented in rotating repertory with "Burnt House" by
translated by Robert Greer and adapted and directed by Whitney
Curtis James Nielson (L) as The Consul; Laurence Cantor
(R) as Cabinet Minister. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.
Strindberg Repertory Theatre presented Strindberg's "The
Storm," adapted and directed by Robert Greer, October 3 to
30, 2015 as part of an exploration of the author's final works.
The piece deals with the marriage foibles of an elderly government
minister. Strindberg named it Opus 1 of his "Chamber Plays"
and wrote it for his Intimate Theater in Stockholm, where it was
produced in 1907-8. It was performed by Strindberg Rep in rotating
repertory with "Burnt House," Opus 2 of the Chamber
Storm" is a remarkable picture of old age, depicting an elderly
government minister who lives in an apartment in a house where
he had once been happy with his divorced wife. Having left her
because he was too old for her and having lost access to his daughter
in a painful divorce, he is about to be lured into marriage again
by a distant cousin who is living as his housekeeper. The position
of Housekeeper in Victorian Sweden, an institution in wealthy
society, was one of great upward mobility because it afforded
women exposure to important people. On a simple level, the play
offers the theme "there's no fool like an old fool."
On a more complex level, it is probably the best of Strindberg's
marriage plays (and prose), his "last word" on the matter
(he never wrote about marriage again) and the most directly autobiographical
piece in his canon. The play was probably written for revenge
against his third wife, the actress Harriet Bosse, to whom he
was married from 1901 to 1904 and had one daughter, named Anne-Marie.
Strindberg was smeared and dishonored in their divorce.
James Nielsen as The Consul, Alyssa Simon as Genvieve. Photo
by Jonathan Slaff.
represented in the play as Genvieve, the Minister's divorced wife,
who surprises him by unknowingly renting an upper floor of his
house together with her new husband, an abusive actor-turned-con
man, and a daughter who has been taught not to know who her real
father is. The character of Louise, the Minister's third cousin
and housekeeper, is an image of Fanny Falkner, a young painter-actress
who came into Strindberg's Intimate Theater company in 1907 to
do small parts and became an able and valuable actress. (Strindberg
wrote roles for her that he would have written for his previous
wives, Siri von Essen and Harriet Bosse.) Initially, Strindberg
considered her for the role of Eleonora in his play "Easter."
She did not get the part, but the contact between Falkner and
Strindberg resulted in his renting part of her parents' apartment
on Drottninggatan, Blå tornet. Later when rumors spread
that Strindberg would propose to Ms. Falkner, she returned to
Copenhagen and resumed her painting career. Historians take this
as evidence that the pair actually had a love affair and theorize
that while Strindberg did not marry her, their relationship inspired
him to imagine a dramatic situation in which he did--or was about
to--and this was the basis for this play.
The Chamber Plays ("The Storm," "Burnt House,"
"The Ghost Sonata", "The Pelican" and "The
Black Glove") are among Strindberg's last plays. After their
debuts in Strindberg's Intimate Theater in Stockholm in 1907-8,
he fell into declining health and died in 1911. The plays were
written as a set with musical concepts. "The Storm"
has very specific music cues. "The Ghost Sonata" is
an actual sonata. The plays even have Opus numbers: "The
Storm" is Op. 1 and "Burnt House" is Op. 2, although
their premieres did not take place in that order. Through the
years, Sweden's greatest directors have staged both plays and
Sweden's leading actors, including Erland Josephson, have acted
the part of The Minister.
In keeping with the minimalist style productions at Strindberg's
Intimate Theatre (which were radical in their time), both "Burnt
House" and "The Storm" were produced on an essentially
bare stage. "Burnt House" had hanging scenery evoking
the orchard that would be visible once the house that had obscured
its view had burnt down. In "The Storm," the façade
of The Cabinet Minister's house served as the fourth wall.
Storm" was acted by Laurence Cantor as The Minister, Curtis
James Nielson as his diplomat brother and lawyer, Alyssa Simon
as Genvieve, his ex-wife and Mary Baynard as Louise, his housekeeper.
Set design was by You-Shin Chen. Lighting design was by Benjamin
Ehrenreich. Costume design was by Jessa-Raye Court.
Baynard as Louise. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.
Storm - a window into Strindberg’s hear and soul in his
last years. . . certainly explores the venerable institution and
offers some penetrating insights on its peculiarities and charm....August
Strindberg Repertory Theatre is one of the best-kept secrets in
New York....So keep your ear tuned to this company. They are making
some mighty fine music with the Scandinavian master’s late-career
works." -- Diedre Donovan, Theaterscene.com