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.
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.
opened with a six-and-a-half minute condensation of "To
Damascus, Part 1," which had been presented by August
Strindberg Rep in 2014.
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 mid-career.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(adaptor) had translated August Strindberg Rep's 2014 production
of "Miss Julie," which
transported the play into the American Antebellum South.